Writing: Arsenal

Your manuscript is polished, beta read and the best work you can do and you have a finely tuned query. You’ve done your research and have a list of agents ready to query.


There are a few other documents you need in your arsenal before you begin.

Most agents may ask for a one page synopsis. Basically one to two pages which lays out the basic plot of your story including the resolution. While the query is intended to titillate, the synopsis must reveal all.

You will also want to want to prepare an extended synopsis. Two to five pages that allow you to say all you want about the your plot, characters, subplots, setting and whatever else you feel is important for an agent to know about the story.

Also useful to have on hand is a chapter outline.  An agent may ask for this so they can get an overall feeling for how the book will progress and how well you interweave and wrap up your story. Basically a one to two paragraph description of each chapter.

And of course, a completed manuscript.

When querying, the most important thing to remember is to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS for submitting your work. It’s heartbreaking to get a rejection but even more so if the rejection comes from not sending the exact thing. Agent websites usually detail this out on a submission page. It can vary from just the query to a certain number of words or pages. Some agents refuse to accept attachments and want everything placed in an email.

Remember when pasting items into an email, they may lose their formatting. The best gift you can give an agent when submitting your query is lots of white space. Just like a book, your eyes tend to wonder when confronted by large blocks of text. Anything you can do to make it easier for an agent to continue reading will only benefit you.

Finally and probably hardest to remember is to not give up. Even when confronted by numerous rejections. There are many anecdotal stories of authors who, on the brink of giving up, finally found the right agent for them.

In a time when most agents accept email queries, rejection can sometimes catch us off guard. Especially when it arrives so quickly after submission. Just as we select and reject potential suitors, the agent-author relationship is one which we should carefully consider. Not just whether they believe in our work but whether they will be the best person to steward and also to understand our vision for our work. Will they grow with us and support our growth? Are they only interested in one manuscript or sticking with you through your entire career?

While the internet is full of advice on how to locate and find agents, authors are often left to sort out these relationships on their own.

I wish you all good fortune and great luck in 2016! Fighting!




Writing: Up all Night and New Ideas

First off, I am not related to, a friend of or associated in any way with Brenda Drake, but after signing up for her blog, I have to say I am learning so much.  I’ve been reading with interest the blog entries for the June Query Workshop. Some very interesting queries to be sure but it’s the comments where I find the most fascinating tidbits. http://www.brenda-drake.com  Go. Go now. But come back please!

If you are in query hell (Hi, nice to meet you. Boy is it hot today), I highly recommend you check it out. Today was the ninth day and I am finding myself rewriting the queries in my head and actually laughing out loud at some of the comments. Perhaps more importantly, I am beginning to see much improvement in my own query writing. The learning curve for beginning writers can feel insurmountable so I’m grateful and thankful for all the help and assistance I can scrounge on the world wide web.

Spent the day at the bookstore yesterday with my niece, Jillyan. Has become one of our favorite activities. Books and Starbucks (highly recommend the double chocolate cheesecake but recommend you share it with someone. Extremely rich and chocolaty and best eaten in small increments).

So anyway, Jillyan usually finds a good manga to read while I scour books in my genre to scan, read and sometimes buy. The best writers must be voracious readers if we want to succeed. My beta reader suggested that, because everything else is awesome, reading would be the best way to improve my writing. Taking that advice to heart! Definitely seeing some marked improvement in my book collection but not sure how much is showing up in my writing. It’s subtle.

Last night about ten p.m. I sat down to write. Finally called it quits and went to bed about 9:00 a.m. Fell into one of those amazing zones that I absolutely love, love, love! The story I’m writing is so compelling and I’m so excited about the characters and their interactions. It’s hard to walk away when everything is flowing easily and effortlessly.

I wrote about 5,000 words last night. Some of that was spent on outlining and fleshing out parts of the story. I try to stick to outlining but then suddenly I’m writing dialogue in the middle of it. It’s a weird hybrid of outline and story but I can see it coming together. Only 60k words to go.  LOL

The story I’m working on kind of came out of nowhere. I was walking in Wal-Mart with my niece and a story just materialized in my mind complete with characters, descriptions, names, plot points, etc. To be truthful, I have been thinking about something related to the story for a long time but it wasn’t until I was standing in Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon that it just jelled in my mind. I turned to Jillyan and mentioned something about it and she laughed. She thinks I’m weird but also awesome. I’m okay with that. I think I’m rubbing off on her. She wants to be a writer too so I know I’m rubbing off on her. Poor girl (Knowing her, she would say lucky but I’m the lucky one)

One last thing. Just wondering if this is me. I keep my cellphone beside my bed at night but not because I’m worried I’ll miss a call. When I’m lying in bed and a great idea or snippet of dialogue pops into my head, I use the voice recorder on the phone rather than try to write it down or get up and type it up. Just enough to make sure I’ll remember the pertinent details. A turn of phrase, a character quirk, an important turning point, even just silly stuff I want to make sure to include. Sometimes I add “I love you” at the end.

It’s fun the next day when I transcribe the messages. In the middle of the night, I’m always certain I’m making sense. Happy Giraffes!  Belinda

Writing: Learning Curve

WOW! I thought writing a book was hard but it’s nothing compared to the work of figuring out the publishing industry. So much to learn, so much to research, so much time away from writing.

Wanted to let you know about a website I stumbled across. More great opportunities to get interest in your writing.  I encourage you to check out Brenda Drake’s blog (http://www.brenda-drake.com/) where you can learn about Pitch Madness and PitMad. The next opportunity to join in the crazy fun is June for PitMad and August for Pitch Madness. Definitely looking forward to participating this year! Details on her website but I also encourage you to subscribe. I’m learning so much just reading her blog entries.

Haven’t been blogging much lately. Working on refining a couple of manuscripts to get them ready. Truth is I’m struggling with the queries. Okay so you have 250 words to describe your brilliant X thousand word manuscript. Then you have to distill that down to 35 words for a hook. Impossibly difficult. Plus every time I think I finally have it, after a day or two of letting it marinate, I discover there’s more to refine. Hard, hard, hard. If I didn’t love writing so much, I would probably throw my hands up and scream. Okay so maybe I still do that but then its right back to it.

Still searching for a job. Job market is tough. Have had several second interviews but no offers. Hopefully I will have better luck when I start querying. Already got my first rejection out of the way. Whew that was potentially soul destroying!

Writer’s Digest has articles on successful queries so if you are having the same difficulty, I suggest you check it out. They also have a lot of great articles. I spent several hours just reading articles.

Back to it. Hours to go before I sleep, perchance to dream. Belinda

Writing 101: Beta readers / Queries

So I’ve been trolling the web looking for a few good beta readers.  Beta readers are your best friends when it comes to preparing your manuscript for submission to publishers and agents.  It never hurts to have a second, third or fourth set of eyes on your work.  Plus the ability to pick the brains of others for plot holes, character issues, flow and pace is invaluable!

For me, the struggle has been that I am surrounded by so few people who actually enjoy reading the type of stories I write.  And it also happens that everyone who has offered to read my manuscript has suddenly becomes terrifically busy with other things.  So what is an aspiring writer to do?

It makes sense to me to go where the readers hang out.  My first thought was to approach my local library and ask if I might post something on their bulletin board or website.  For a place that encourages reading, their refusal to allow even the tiniest flyer was very surprising and disappointing.

So my next step was a google search.  AgentQuery has a board where you can search for beta readers and critique partners (cp).  I also found a great site that seems promising.  Good Reads is a board that allows writers to connect with beta readers.  They also offer help for aspiring writers to promote their work through their author program.  I’m going to be checking this site out in detail in the next few days.

If you have a great way to find beta readers, I would love to hear about it.

So once your manuscript is in great shape.  Time to write the query.  For me, writing queries are a struggle: striking a balance between sharing just enough to get someone interested and not giving away the entire story.  Some stories lend themselves more to queries and some, like the one I’m working on now, just can’t seem to be summed up in a few paragraphs.  In that regard, I want to share with everyone another great site: QueryShark.   I highly encourage you to read through the entire site.  I learned so much and went back and edited my manuscripts using information gleaned from this blog.  It helps you to see writing issues before you submit your work.  We all have rabbit holes we fall down and this site helps you to see them.  While I have not submitted a query yet, I am looking forward to doing so in the very near future.  B