Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exciting Stuff All Around

Funny how life is.  One day you're just going along normally, juggling all those balls in the air (wife, mother, day job, graduate school, writing), then the next, one of them gets a whole lot heavier, and you feel like the pace picks up, but there is no instruction manual provided for how to keep all the balls in the air at this point.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I'm thoroughly, completely, insanely excited about this new twist of life.  I have no complaints about my life.  Matter of fact, I feel very blessed, but I'd appreciate those of you who are published authors giving a few tips for how you work your writing life into your already busy schedule.

Oh, and I would like to invite you all to follow my new blog
It's my author blog, and yes, I'm posting to both as of now.

I'll also get back to posting about finding the right agent, editor, publisher, etc. next week.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's That Book Got That Mine Don't?

What does the published book represented by your dream agent or published by your dream publishing house have that yours doesn't?  Besides good timing, you'd be surprised.  Literary agent Scott Eagan shared a story about a writer who wanted to write for the Silhouette line so badly, that she literally honed her writing to sound just like the books she was reading.  Now, before you go trying to figure out how to paraphrase a published book, that's not at all what he meant.  She studied certain aspects of the published books until she could write her stories with their format.  I'm not talking formula here either, though in a way, you can see patterns.

We are all working on our craft and learning at our own pace, so often we might not honestly be at the stage where we can objectively look at what's on the shelves now, and what about it appealed to our Top Ten agents/editors.  And, before I get too far, let me just say that Susan Meier does a great series of blogposts on this very subject, so I suggest you check them out at

She has terrific ideas for how to analyze the books you read.  But there are other aspects that she doesn't really get into when it comes to analyzing a book of a particular line.  The truth is, different lines publish different kinds of books.  Sure two different houses might both publish vampire stories, but as Scott Eagan said, "the vampire from one line wouldn't hang out with the vampire from the other line."  There are differences, and if you want to work with a particular agent or editor, you need to identify those differences.

So, what do we need to look at?  I am targeting a particular line myself and have known I would like to write for them for a while, but I haven't submitted to them yet because my story just didn't seem right for them, even to me, but I wasn't sure why until I started analyzing some of the published books from that line.  These are the things I looked hard and nit-picky at:

  • Hook--Not just what it is, but how is it different from others before it.
  • Beginnings--I have heard not to start with dialogue, and I've also heard a great way to start is with dialogue.  So, which is it?  It probably depends on which line you want to write for.  Once you've studied a few published books, you'll have an idea.
  • Dialogue vs. Narrative--I literally pulled out a highlighter and marked all the dialogue in the first chapter of each of my test books.  What did I notice?  Most of the first chapter was narrative in which the internal and external conflict of at least one of the main characters was revealed interspersed with meaningful dialogue.
  • Sexual tension--How much, how is it revealed, are the stages of intimacy obvious?  Everyone knows you can't submit erotica to Love Inspired, but even an inspy line will have some romantic tension.  If you are targeting that line, you need to know how published authors were able to work that out.
  • Character description--Some publishing lines are okay with a quick stats rundown of hair color, eye color, height, etc.  Others call for subtlety.  Read some published books and note in the margin when you get a visual of the character.  How was it revealed?
  • Backstory--Once again, people get anxious that they have too much backstory or not enough backstory.  How do you know?  There's no definitive answer.  This is one where, once again, you have to consult those that made it to the shelves.
  • Gender--For me, it's important to see what kind of heroes and heroines the line looks for and how he or she handles the dialogue, narrative, and description from each point of view.  Certain lines have only the Alphaist of Alphas, some allow Betas, and some have a hybrid that I have heard called a Balpha.  It's important to study and figure out whether the line you want to write for has the same kind of heroes and heroines that star in your book.
These are only a few items you want to look at to see whether what you write would ever fit at the publishing house with which you dream of working someday or is written in a way that would appeal to the agent you hope to snag.

Can you think of characteristics that stand out in the books from the authors or publishing houses you love?  This is the key to getting noticed and hopefully published.

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Which Agent or Editor is Right for You?

What do you get when you mix an elephant and a rhinocerous?  Helifino.

Often, after that first, second, or umpteenth rejection, that's what we say when it comes to what an agent or editor really wants.  I mean, we're sending good, quality work.  Why can't they see the genius?

Scott Eagan made this point so clear this past weekend when he told the Kentucky Romance writers about a time he sat on a panel with other agents and answered questions for a group of writers.  After the Q&A session was over, an author approached the agents and said that she finally understood why one of the agents kept rejecting her and would more than likely, never accept her writing.  The agent liked a different kind of voice than she wrote.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  They always strategically place that little tidbit at the end of the rejection letters that the publishing business is subjective and maybe my writing would fit with another agent and all that, but we all know that's just patronizing, pat-on-the-back speech, right?  WRONG!

If the top of your top ten wishlist of agents or editors likes a snarky, snappy kind of heroine, but you write the female version of Dudley Do-Right, then, more than likely, you're never going to get that yes.

So, how do you find out which agents or editors are right for you?  Believe it or not, it's easy and even fun.  All you need to do, is find out who their clients are and read the latest books published through that agent or with the help of that editor. 

But, how do you find out who their clients are?  All you need is the internet, which you obviously have if you are reading this.  Websites like or actually list agents, their clients, and even give easy access to what projects that agent is looking for.

Once you know who their clients are, you can then find the latest release where the publisher and sometimes even the editor (in the acknowledgments) are listed.

Now the fun part is reading the books, but rather than reading them for entertainment, you read them with purpose.  Your purpose is to figure out what the agent or editor liked about this manuscript, liked it enough to give it a chance to be published.  If you really want to understand what they want, read the first time authors.  They are the ones the agent or editor really took a chance on.

My next post we'll look at ways to analyze the books you read, and exactly what you should look for.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Lose an Agent/Editor in Five Easy Steps

Obviously, the title is not literal, but thanks to the KYRW workshop this past weekend, I got some excellent information about how to know whether or not you're ready to submit your work to an agent or editor.  So, today I will share five ways to really screw the pooch (no dogs were harmed in the writing of this blog) when it comes to agents and editors.

  1. Don't target specific agents/editors, just send a mass e-mail to all of them.
  2. Really show you hate to research by not having read any of the books that said agent or editor has been involved with publishing.
  3. Don't narrow your book down to one genre or possible publishing house.  After all, they all publish the same books and have the same readers.
  4. Don't waste time with critique partners or groups.  Get your work out there as soon as possible.  That's what agents and editors do--clean up the writer's mistakes.
  5. Do chase what's hot right now (which just happens to be long-winded diaries written by shape-shifting zombies that take place in exotic locales like Egypt).
So, there you have it.  All the reasons an agent or editor will run screaming in the exact OPPOSITE direction of you.  Truth is, I have been guilty of at least three of these (okay, I feel your snarky stare--all of them).  What about you?  What are things you wish you'd known when you first started out?  Or what are you still unsure about?

More on these this week.  I plan to blog about each way to lose an agent/editor, going into more detail for each.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming to You Live

Currently I am sitting in KYRW Spring Into Writing conference with literary agent Scott Eagan.I am learning so much about what NOT to do when it comes to submitting to agents and editors.  First and foremost, I learned that I am soooo NOT ready!

But I am learning how to get ready, and that is exciting.  I have oodles to blog about this week, including some pictures of the places we went (not at all related to Dr. Suess).  Here's a little tidbit that I've heard but it finally clicked:  I need to know who I want as my publisher and where my work fits RIGHT NOW.  Why?  I'll go into more detail later, but agents need to know if your writing would even work there because it really doesn't every where.


I will also give more detail on how you go about doing that because, let's face it, we don't know what's going on in agent's and editor's heads, most of the time.  I mean, come on, my book is THE best thing EVER (thick sarcasm intended).

But I've taken good notes and even did a pitch, so I will spill my thoughts on all of it this week.  If you comment within the next two hours, I can ask him right now.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ten Minute Procrastiwriter

I am a notorious procrastinator.  Matter of fact, between the previous sentence and this one, I managed to waste about twenty minutes looking for the perfect picture, googling people's names, updating my facebook status.  Okay, so maybe it's not so much procrastination as ADD or maybe it's just ODD, but I have a tendency to lose track of time.  It just slips away like dropped change rolling around on the floor.  I don't know where it went, but I miss it when it's gone.

True to form, I procrastinated getting my current WIP where I wanted it to be by this time.  You see, there is a workshop this weekend (information can be found at, and I'd planned to have at least two manuscripts to pitch to literary agent, Scott Eagan, but now I only have the one ready for him to see.  *sigh* It's not like these opportunities come very often, but no sense dwelling on hard-headed procrastination epic fails, right?

But it has made me re-evaluate my situation.  I know I can't always give my time and attention to my writing like a full-time writer might, but I have to make myself stick to the goals I have for myself somehow.  Therefore, my new-fangled idea is this:  over the next month, every day, even if I can't write any more than the time allotted, I vow to write for at least ten minutes a day.  Even if I have so many other things to do, I will give ten minutes to my writing.  By doing this, I hope it will stretch a little past that (maybe even a lot past that, sometimes), and I'll get more accomplished.  However, even if I can't write for anymore than ten minutes, I will have written something for that day.

I will update you on my progress.  Before I go though, I'm curious how others make progress when so many other of life's issues take precedence.  How do you keep BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard)?

Happy writing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Musings

I can't imagine the devastation that Japan is experiencing currently.  My thoughts and prayers are with the people there.  Cancer taught much about appreciation for life as I know it, but it also gave me perspective.  I am blessed by modern medicine, by my friends and family, and by God.  Yet that doesn't mean bad things don't happen to good people.  Now, I am far from perfect, but I have always tried to do the right thing, and even through many good decisions that led to great opportunities in my life, I still developed a life-threatening disease.

It's hard to explain to some why I still expect good things to happen in my life.  Some would just take the pessimistic viewpoint and expect the worst at every turn, and I'm not going to lie, those thoughts have occurred to me, but I've never been one to stay down long.  And I certainly hope to be able to help any way I can to assist the people of Japan as they get back on their feet again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I had an outpatient surgery today, but good new--no malignancies.  Needless to say, I am resting and relaxing today, but the amazing, wonderful doctor said I'll be recovered in a week.

Thanks goes to God for the good news.  I praise him for his many blessings in my life.

Now, the good medicine is kicking in, so time for bed.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

R-E-J-E-C-T find out what it means to me.  Yep, I received a rejection on my short story submission, and it hit me where it hurts.  But the truth is that it means something more to me than just a simple no.  It means that I believed in myself enough to send it out in the first place.  It also means I can live through rejection.  And, of course, it means that they rejected my work, not me.

I also submitted two other places and hope to hear from them soon.  Even if it is a no from both of them, I feel like I'm taking one step closer to publication.  I refuse to give up until I get a yes, whether that's this year or a few years down the road.  That's what it means to be a writer.  That's what it means to pursue a writing career.  No publisher is going to come to my house, rifle through my computer files, and shout, "Eureka!" when they see my work.  I have to submit it and risk rejection.

You know what helps though?  A little chocolate and understanding friends.  One of my dear friends I met in Orlando told me I should hang on to that rejection.  Stephen King posted them above his desk, not as a reminder that he'd been rejected, but as a reminder that he had a goal and every rejection was one step closer to meeting it.

I'm not Stephen King, but rejection means that like a real author, I'm going to pull up my big girl panties, pull out the current WIP, and keep on keeping on.

Any suggestions for how to deal with rejection?  Maybe just a positive story about an author who had many rejections, but in the end, met their publication goals.

Happy Writing!