QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

But I'm Not Making A Movie...

When I first started writing fiction, I studied craft books that focused on writing novels. What more could I want? They taught me everything I needed to know, or so I thought.

It wasn’t until I read Save the Cat by Blake Synder that I realized how much I can learn from books geared toward screenwriters, actors, and directors. I also discovered that authors with a background in cinema have an insight that could also benefit my stories.

Most of us are familiar with Writer’s Digest books. I can almost guarantee you’ve read at least one of their craft books. Michael Wise Productions is the cinema version of Writer’s Digest, and has an impressive list of books that will appeal to novelists, too. Topics range from story structure, subtext, symbolism, characterization, story lines. The best part is they use examples from well known movies and TV shows. You don’t have to suffer through an excerpt taken out of context or spend hours reading the novel. You can easily watch the show or movie in a fraction of the time.

As writers, we need to read. A lot. We read both in and out of our genre. We analyze stories, and figure out what we liked and didn’t like about them. You can do the same with movies and TV shows, and apply what you learned to your story. For example, you can study different techniques used in a movie, in a similar vein to your story, to see how the director conveyed mood (beyond the music). Then find a way to incorporate them into your writing. Analyze the symbols used to reveal characterization and plot. Study how the actors portray the characters. What kinds of physical details relating to the character or setting does the director zoom in on that adds power to the scene? Can you use some of those techniques in your story? I recommend reading Shoot Your Novel by C.S Larkin. She explains cinematography in a way that will change the way you write a scene. Some of the techniques we naturally use, but knowing them will help you gain maximum benefit from them.

In movies, the story is revealed through action and dialogue. There are no inner thoughts—most of the time. So how does the viewer get inside the actor’s head? Subtext. What do readers love? Subtext. Want to know how to do subtext well, then study movies. Analyze the difference between the great actors and the B-grade ones, then apply it your story to make it and your characters come to life.

Don’t just watch a movie for its entertainment value. Watch it. Study it. Dissect it. Just like screenwriters do.

Have you read any screenwriting books you recommend?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Insecure? Forget About It!

Today's post comes courtesy of Brenda Whiteside, author of The Art Of Love and Murder. She touches on several topics that resonated with my own journey to publication, so I asked her to share her story with us on the QTB.

There’s a fine line between confidence and abject insecurity. For an author, the abject insecurity can sneak up at anytime and stall you, or at least convince you every word going from head to computer has bypassed the creative juice chamber coming out dry and tasteless. Such is the journey. And we all travel this road differently.

My tale is directed to all authors, but in particular to the aspiring author. The path to getting my first book published in 2009 could have been a dead end had the order of events happened differently.

I love to write about characters on a journey, traveling both the physical and the mental roads. My first novel length release, Sleeping with the Lights On, has such a journey for my heroine, Sandra Holiday. Along the fictional journey I created pitfalls and summits, conflicts and resolutions. The road to publication is no different, although as authors we’d like to skip the pitfalls and conflicts.

The abject insecurity I mentioned earlier usually hits me three times when I’m writing a book:  two chapters short of completion, while I’m writing the synopsis, and again right after I type “the end”.  I always manage to muddle through the last two chapters, a whip in one hand holding off my negative inner critic. I wring out those chapters, a word at a time. I won’t even go into the torture of writing a synopsis. But the final phase, the now-I’m-finished-and-who-will-publish-this-inadequate-book is the hardest to overcome.

When I finished Sleeping with the Lights On, I entered two contests to confirm or put to rest my insecurity. Let someone else judge the book’s worthiness. And then I waited.

I’m not a patient person. In a rash moment, I queried one publisher. The Wild Rose Press responded so quickly asking for a partial, I was left giddy. A few weeks later, they requested a full. Jump ahead three months to “the call” or really the email. Excited? Oh, yes. Insecurity? Gone in a flash.

But here’s the difference between fiction and reality; between the logical order of events an author writes and real life experience. Two days after getting “the call”, I received notification on the two contests. The judges had a slightly different response to my book. In fact, one judge really slammed my baby.

Rejection is hard to take regardless of how thick your hide, but I have to say rejection is much easier to handle when you’ve already been accepted for publication. The journey to getting published is much better when the summit comes first and you can look down at the pitfall and scoff – with confidence. I’ll never know how I might have reacted to those less than winning critiques had I not published first. Would I have shoved the book into a drawer to collect dust? I hope not – must be a moral in this tale.

I haven’t found a cure for conquering the insecurities, but perseverance gets me over the crest. I won’t quit entering the occasional contest, but I’ll not take the results as the final word.

Is there a book you’ve read and raved about that a friend found dull or boring? If you’re a writer, have you let a contest result influence what you did with your manuscript? My advice is to have faith in yourself and keep on writing.

About the Author:
Brenda Whiteside is the author of  The Art of Love and Murder, released May 2, 2014. A mother she never knew, the identity of her father disputed – secrets, threats and murder. Lacy’s past and present collide spinning her deeper into danger and further from love...

Brenda spends most of her time writing stories of discovery and love. The rest of her time is spent tending vegetables on the small family farm she shares with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com and blogs about writing and prairie life at http://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/


Friday, October 24, 2014

Publishing Pulse for October 24, 2014

New At QueryTracker:

The QueryTracker bloggers have decided to change our Publishing Pulse schedule to the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Please update your calendars accordingly.

Since the last Publising Pulse, we've updated seventeen agent profiles. That's a lot of motion in the industry, so please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before sending your query.

If you're a QueryTracker premium member, then you can be notified whenever an agent or publisher profile is added or updated. If you're not a premium member, you can just check for yourself.

Publishing News:

Even though Amazon and Hachette still haven't completed negotiations, Simon and Schuster did reach a deal with Amazon.

John Grisham made some interesting remarks about old men who watch child pornography, and later issued an apology, saying his statement was
...in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. 
You can check out the list of finalists for the National Book Award.

And for this month's best panic-driven storyline, Adobe Digital Editions is spying on you. It's so hard not to make a joke like, In postmodern america, ebooks read you.

Around the Blogosphere:

A fascinating, amazing take on Amazon's algorithms by an indie author who was able to correlate sales to rank.

Hugh Howey calls for a ceasefire between indie authors and traditionally-published authors over the Amazon/Hachette kerfluffle.

An author admits to investigating, stalking and eventually confronting a reviewer who'd been bullying her online and urging others to bully her as well. There are 45,000 blog responses to this article, but I leave you with just the original.

As it turns out, literary agents were always hated and feared. Who knew?

Literary Quote of the Week:
“1. Write every day
2. Write what interests you.
3. Write for the child inside of you. (Or the adult, if you are writing adult books.)
4. Write with honest emotion
5. Be careful of being facile
6. Be wary of preaching
7. Be prepared for serendipity
Finally I would remind you of something that Churchill told a group of school boys: "Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never give up.”
― Jane Yolen

Thanks for stopping by, and keep sending those queries!


Jane Lebak is the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation. She has four kids,  three books in print, two cats, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and tries to do one scary thing every day. You can like her on Facebook, but if you want to make her rich and famous, please contact Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Secrets of Subtext

Fiction is like an iceberg. Only twenty-five percent of it is visible (the words on the page). The other seventy-five percent is known as subtext. It’s the part that is tricky to convey, but when you do it right, it makes for a compelling story.

A few years ago, I had an issue with my van doors that turned out to be a design flaw that affected many of the manufacturer’s vehicles. The man at the dealership didn’t tell me he was nervous when I calmly asked if they had inspected the doors during my many service appointments, given the manufacturer knew about the issues. (I had to keep asking the question because he kept giving me a non-answer). His body language told me was nervous. I interpreted what he didn’t say and how he reacted to mean that they had neglected to examine the doors.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe he kept shifting on his feet because his bladder was about to explode due to a super large latte he’d recently consumed. Maybe he was frequently looking at his coworkers, who were busy staring at their computer screens and pretending I wasn’t there, because he hoped someone would relieve so he could go to the bathroom.

Okay, I didn’t believe that either, but it does show you how things might not always be as they seem. That’s the beauty of subtext. It can add an element of suspense. You can have your character screw up by thinking the subtext means something else and misdirect your reader. But make sure it’s believable. If your reader can guess the truth behind the subtext, your misdirection will come off as contrived and your character will sound like an idiot.

It isn’t always necessary to spell out the subtext for your readers. Often it’s more satisfying if you let them figure it out themselves. That’s the beauty of fiction. It exercises our brains. However, if the subtext is confusing and will frustrate the reader, then definitely have a character spell it out.

One thing to avoid is the mistake director Catherine Hardwicke made in Twilight and Red Riding Hood. In Twilight, she wanted to show Edward’s eyes, which changed color depending on when he last ate blood. In Red Riding Hood, she wanted to show that the werewolf had human eyes. Fair enough. But in both movies, the close-up shots of the eyes filled the screen, and the camera stayed zoomed on them for longer than necessary. In Red Riding Hood, Catherine then focused on everyone’s eyes so we could examine them (not necessary, if you ask me). Except, I doubt Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood) was leaning that close to the individuals, and for that long, to check out their eyes. At one point, my eleven-year-old said in an exasperated tone, “Yeah, yeah, we get it.”

Lesson: don’t underestimate your readers’ intelligence. They won’t appreciate it.

Do you use subtext to misguide your readers?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pen Names - Should You Have One?

(This is a recycled post by Suzette Saxton from March of 2009.)

Pen name, nom de plume, pseudonym, literary double, alias. Some authors have them. Other authors don’t. In some instances, having a pen name can increase your marketability. In other instances, the opposite is true.

Some reasons for considering a pen name:
  • Your name is too common, strange, or hard to spell.
  • Someone else has an online presence with the same name.
  • Your name is not a match for the genre you write.
  • For whatever reason, you would like to remain anonymous
  • Reasons of gender; using a pen name allows females to write as males and vice versa.
  • You write in more than one genre, as discussed here.
  • For your protection, when your subject matter is inflammatory or controversial.

Author Jessica Verday shares her reasons for choosing a nom de plume:

I have a very, very, very common last name, so I kept my first name but based my last name (Verday) on a variation of my middle name. There hasn't been any problem whatsoever with my agent or my editor about it. The key is to be consistent in whatever you do. When I address my agent or my editor, I always use my pen name. 

Even among agents, there are differences in opinion. 

Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency has a sneaky tip on how to use a pen name to sandwich your book between bestsellers.

Jessica Faust of BookEnds advises using your new name immediately and exclusively from the moment you settle on one.

The Rejecter thinks pseudonyms are "a case of 'thinking too far ahead' syndrome, along with sending in your cover ideas and your pre-written book jacket."

Miss Snark suggests listing both your real and pen names on the header of your manuscript.

Choosing to use a pen name is a decision not made lightly, which is why so many authors struggle with it.

And now, just for fun... 

There are multitudinous pen name generators online. Below is a quick list of pseudonyms these sites suggested for me, along with links to the sites for your amusement:

Emely Rainbolt -- from Chucklehound

And if you'd like some help from the U.S. Census Bureau, check out the name generator at Critique Circle.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Publishing Pulse, October 10, 2014

This Week at Query Tracker
The profiles of several agents were updated this week. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.
Ready to write your own success story?
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.
This Week in Publishing
This made me grin—and nod emphatically the entire time while reading it. A “Dear Agent” letter of a different kind.
Self-publishing or traditional publishing: know which path you want to follow before you set out, because some steps cannot be untread. Here’s an example of what agents do not want to see.

Joanna Penn shared a podcast in which she and Helen Sedwick talked about various legal issues in “Copyright, Publishing Contract Clauses, Image Use, And Avoiding Getting Sued”.
A few tips for success that all writers can use.
Writing a memoir? Here are some helpful pointers from Abigail Carter.

#WriteTip Round-Up
Try keeping a list of active verbs you can refer to when writing
Open your book with conflict. No conflict, no story
If nothing changes then the scene is either not working hard enough or could be cut.
What's worrying or annoying you right now? Write a story about it. (Change the characters, increase the danger)
Don't give two main characters names beginning with same initial and with same number of syllables (David/Derek, Rosie/Rachel)

Today in Publishing
Ever wonder what a genie would say to his therapist? I did. :)

My paranormal romance WORDS THAT BIND was released by The Wild Rose Press today. It's a bittersweet moment, really, because our dear friend and QTB legend Carolyn Kaufman isn't here to share it.

She was instrumental in the development of this book--her expertise in the field of psychology made me rethink the plot, her enthusiastic support convinced me it was a story worth writing, and her memory will forever inspire and encourage me.

This book is for her.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
I'll be at New York Comic Con, getting' my fangirl on. If you plan on attending, just yell for me when you come in. See you there!

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. Visit Ash at www.ashkrafton.com for news on her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). Her paranormal romance WORDS THAT BIND (The Wild Rose Press) comes out today.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Writing Resources to Make Your Life Easier

We all have our favorite non-fiction books that focus on the craft of writing. These books have helped improved our writing mechanics and have helped us create stories that are page turners, come up with three-dimensional characters, write emotional stories, and write settings that make the reader feel like they’re in the story. These are the books we might refer to from time to time when we need a little reminder, or when we want to take our writing and stories to the next level. They tend not to be the books you refer to each time you write a new story.

Many of the craft books I own fit that criteria. But in addition to those books, I have five resources I can’t live without whenever I start a new book or edit a project.

Roget’s International Thesaurus

This is no normal thesaurus, and the concept behind it is brilliant. With the typical thesaurus, you look up a word and the book gives you a list of similar words (synonyms), and in theory you just plug in the word and it makes for better writing.

Or does it?

Roget’s International Thesaurus does things differently. It is divided according to categories, which helps your writing become richer compared to a regular thesaurus. You can still look up a word’s synonym, but this thesaurus enables you to do so much more. It’s also a perfect resource for creating metaphors. Once you try the book out, you’ll never go back to the old format, again.

 The Emotion Thesaurus

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression (by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi) is an outstanding resource. After a brief introduction explaining the various ways you can SHOW emotion (and what to avoid), the thesaurus breaks down each of the seventy-five emotions covered into: the physical signals; internal sensations; mental responses; cues of acute or long-term use of the emotion (e.g for adoration, it might lead to obsession or stalking of the object of adoration); what the emotion might escalate to; and cues of when the emotion is suppressed. There are also seven-five tips listed throughout to help you make the most of the emotions you’re trying to convey.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus

The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes (by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi), along with its sister book described below, is the idea resource to help you create dimensional characters that are unique. This helps prevent your characters from sounding the same from one story to the next. We’ve all read books from authors in which the only thing that has changed from one book to their next one is the plot (marginally) and the setting. This book will help you avoid being that author.

First up is a brief intro (that I highly recommend you read first) on various related topics, including: what is a positive attribute; needs and morals and how they influence characters strengths; the different categories of positive attributes; building characters from the ground up; how to show your character’s attributes; and when readers aren’t interested (common pitfalls in character creation.

The second part of the thesaurus breaks down each positive attribute into the following: definition, categories, similar attributes, possible causes, associated behaviors, associated thoughts, associated emotions, positive aspects, negative aspects (when the trait goes too far), examples from literature (and movies), traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and challenging scenarios for the adaptable character.

The third part contains various appendices with worksheets you can use to create the positive side of your character. You then use the worksheets in The Negative Trait Thesaurus to make your characters three dimensional.

The Negative Trait Thesaurus

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws is another well thought out reference from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Its layout is similar to The Positive Trait Thesaurus, except the introduction and appendices have different information to the previously mentioned book. When both books are used together, your characters (including the villains) will be free of the clich├ęs and stereotypes that often end up in agent and editor slushpiles. Readers will want to get to know them better and will keep reading your book.


When it comes to writing, I’m an organized individual. This is why I can’t live without the writing software Scrivener. Not only does it make my life easier when it comes to planning my stories (everything is one click away), it speeds up my editing time compared to what it used to be when I did everything in Word. I’m not going to go into more details about the software because Sarah Pinneo has already done a great post on the topic.

Do you have writerly resources that you can’t live without?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sitting on the Fence

It’s that time of year when I look over my balcony railing and compare my lawn, with its patchy areas of green and brown (thank you big snow storm two weeks ago) to my neighbor’s rich green grass. Yes, in this case, the grass is always greener…

But what about in publishing? When you’re querying, you long for the moment when you get The Call. You long to be on the other side of the fence. You’re positive it’s better than where you’re standing. And maybe it is.

And maybe it isn’t.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, here is a list of things you can expect or should try to accomplish:

Rejections (you get them no matter which side of the fence you stand on…even if you’re a bestselling author)

Feedback/reviews that make you want to OD on chocolate and wine

Feedback/reviews that you want to plaster all over your office—for inspiration

Fans (even if they’re just your beta readers)

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

More waiting.

Workshops…because you should always keep learning

Try something new

Challenge yourself to do better with each project

Read books within your genre

Read books outside of your genre

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Connect with new friends on various social media sites

Find a support system among writers/authors who are at a similar place to you

Compare notes to others who are in the same place as you (whether that be writing your first manuscript, querying, on submission with editors, getting ready to launch your debut book, getting ready to launch your tenth book)

Do your best not to compare your journey to someone else

Fail at not comparing your journey to someone else

Read a book and decide you should quit writing because you will never be that good

Read a book and aspire to write like that

Learn more about the realities of publishing

Remind yourself of the realities of publishing every day

Complain to your friends…just don’t complain where the whole world (i.e. agents, editors, readers) can read your complaints, especially if you’re complaining about someone specific

And finally…

No matter where you are on the journey, take time to enjoy it.

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.  She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN and LET ME KNOW (Carina Press, HQN) are now available.