Friday, November 16, 2012

Query Query Query



There comes a point in every writer’s life when they want to pull their hair out. This phenomenon is commonly called writing a query letter.
Query letters.
You spend months working on a novel. It tops out at over 50,000 words and stretches on for pages. You’ve taken care to choose the right words and create a rich setting.
How is it that a one page letter can cause so much drama?
For those new to the writing world, a query letter is a small blurb about your book to convince an agent to read it. You have to share just enough information to explain what the book is about, but not too much information. It has to be a fine balance of character and plot. It must have a unique and catchy voice that is true to the voice of the novel.
It is as difficult as it sounds. More difficult than writing the book in the first place.
My advice?
Eat chocolate and don’t be afraid to cry.
In seriousness, just try it. Maybe try writing a couple of version of it. Then get feedback. Have people who haven’t read your book read it. This will test how clearly it explains things and how inticing it is. Have people who have read your book read it. They will be able to identify if you maintain the voice of the book and can help you clarify plot points.
Don’t be afaid to try something different if things aren’t working. Save your drafts. You may decide you like your older version better or may need to use a specific line from an earlier draft.
Queries. They are a pain, but haven’t killed anyone yet. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Getting Attention



Getting Attention
A few days ago, someone came to visit whom my dog adores. While my roommate was talking with this person, I was napping in my room. I ignored Lucy’s pleasepleaseplease let me out to see them. When I finally got up, she looked at me and then began shredding a piece of paper on the floor.
Now, it is difficult to say that she was trying to get my attention, but it sure doggone felt like it.
She got attention, just not the open-the-door kind of attention she wanted, but more of the what-are-you-doing kind of attention.

As writers, we very much want the attention of an agent. There are plenty of ways to get their attention, but sometimes, it isn’t the attention you want.
The bad ways:

  •         Gimmicks. This includes, but isn’t limited to: asking a rhetorical question in the query letter, sending a letter with 26 point neon orange font, or starting your query letter with dialog.
  •          Breaking the rules. Example: Purposely misspelling the word green or writing an entire query letter as one giant run-on sentence.
  •          Not Following Guidelines. If they say no attachments, you attach something. If they say they don’t represent young adult novels, you send them your query for a YA novel.

These ways will most certainly get you noticed, but not in a good way.
So what are the steps to get noticed in a good way?
The good ways:
  •        Write something awesome.
That’s it. Plain and simple. If you want their attention, do that. It won’t work with every agent, everywhere, but guarantee, if you write something awesome, it will get noticed.
Happy Writing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Professional Editors



This is the last installment of a three part series on where to get editing help.
Professional editors are people who, umm . . . edit as their profession. These guys and gals are the experts. They can help take your novel to the next level. Professional editors know the business. They understand the market. With their help, your novel can become ready to be queried or to be self-published.
The downside: Finding the right professional editor can be difficult. There are a lot of professional editors out there, but you want one that will work best with you and your project. They should be familiar with your genre and be someone you are comfortable receiving feedback from. (For the upside of the downside, most editors allow you to send a piece of your story to see if they make a good fit and they have connections to others who might be able to help you). Another difficulty with professional editors, is since this is their job, they take money. The results are worth it, but having a critiqued book doesn’t necessarily put kibble in the kitty dish.
Tips for getting editing help from professional editors:
1.      Plan ahead. A really awesome editor will probably have a waiting list for their services. Don’t expect to send them an e-mail and see your manuscript edited within the next week. Sometimes, their waiting list can be as long as 6-8 months.
2.      Make sure your book is as ready as it can be. I’d advise using the other editing methods first so that your book is as polished as you can get it before seeking their help. Getting feedback on stuff that could have been caught and fixed by your critique group will do you no good whatsoever.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Writing Websites



This is a continuation of a series of posts about finding place to get feedback on your novel.
A quick search of the internet will lead you to a ton of writing websites. Everything from http://querytracker.net/forum/ to http://www.hatrack.com/  You can find websites based on your genre or your location or your love of writing plus cats (I’m sure that’s out there somewhere). On most of these websites, is a place to ask for feedback. Some even have specific places to post query letters or the first page of your book.
With writing websites, you can get a lot of feedback fairly fast. Since most of the time, these people aren’t familiar with your book, it’s a great way to get a first impression. Also, as you get to know people, you may form a formal critique group (see last Wednesday’s post) or at least close writing friends.
The downside to getting feedback from writing websites: Not everyone is on equal ground as far as writing experience, so not all of the advice you get will be sound. Also, with a lot of feedback comes a lot of conflicting opinions, so you will have to shuffle through to decide what you want to do.
Tips for getting editing help from writing websites:
1.      Be careful where you post and who you communicate with. This is on-line and not everyone is as honest as they say. Be sure not to give out personal information.
2.      Give more than you get. If you help other writer’s with your work, when you need help, it will be there. Plus, like with critique groups, sometimes you learn more by helping others than you do by having someone critique your book.

Tune in next time for the last installment of this riveting three part series on where to get critique help!
Happy writing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Critique Groups



Critique groups are a very simple and fun way to get feedback on your manuscript. They can be in-person groups where you meet face to face, or on-line groups where you send e-mails back-and-forth. For the most part, critique groups will be people that you’ve met (either on-line or in-person). They are people with whom you will probably exchange several chapters or even manuscripts over the years.
If you stick with one critique group for long enough, they become like a family. They see you and your novel at its worst. They know you. When your book is published and you are writing your page of thanks yous, these are the people that get all the inside jokes and secret codes. (For my group, there will be a mention of bananas and possibly chickens and an extra thanks for keeping me safe from the alien-ninjas.)
The downside to critique groups is that if it isn’t the right fit for you or your story, you’ll be miserable and your story will not be helped. It is tricky finding the right balance of people and the right meshing of personalities. Don’t be afraid to leave a group if it isn’t helping you.
Finding the right critique group is like finding the perfect pair of shoes—only better because shoes don’t help make your novel awesome and make you laugh.
The best advice for a critique group:
1.      Help the others in your group. In critiquing their works, you’ll learn how to make yours better—guarantee. And as a group, you’ll grow together.
2.      Get to know the others in your group. As you exchange stories, you’ll be able to understand their feedback as you get to know the people giving it. You’ll grow comfortable with their critiquing style and ways of phrasing things. Everyone is different and in order to get the most from your critiques, knowing the critiquer is important.
Tune in  on Friday for tips on using writing websites for an editing source.