Tag Archives: queries

The Joys and Pains of Query Letters

As you know by now I’ve written three YA novels, the first I’ve deemed ‘not ready’ and the other two of which I have been seeking representation for. I began the whole query process roughly a year ago. It came back with all rejections for months, and then in the summer I got a requested full. I finished writing my next book while I waited for news to come back.

Unfortunately, being a literary agent is a very busy and stressful job, and the agent fell behind on reading through submissions and news still hasn’t come. That’s okay, I understand. I was beyond excited to get that full request in the first place. It gave me hope and a push to keep trying. I could wait. But I decided to start sending out more letters in the meantime, this time for newest manuscript.

Again, let the rejections roll. Then I started hearing about pitch contests on Twitter (as you also know by previous posts) and I participated in three of them. I received 3 favorites, 2 favorites, and 6 favorites for each pitch party (which means the agent/editor requested a partial of my material). Out of those 11, so far I have received 4 rejections, 1 full request, 2 I’m still waiting to hear back on, and the rest I decided not to send to because it felt like the wrong fit for me. So I know. I know how hard it is to wait, what it’s like to be rejected, how it feels to get a request, and all the crazy what-ifs that run through your head, both good and bad. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re at this same, crazy stage.

Don’t let the rejections kill your spirit. I know it hurts. You just want someone out there to believe in your work. You know how when you check your email on your phone or device you can usually read the first couple of sentences before you even open the letter? I got to the point where if I saw the word “unfortunately” in those first couple lines I already knew what the rest of the email was: a pass. And yes it got increasingly harder to shrug it off the more I received, and yes I began questioning myself. Was I not ready? Am I not good enough after all? Should I just give up? No, no, and no. You MUST believe in yourself. You MUST keep trying. If you put in the work, believe in your writing, and create the best project you can then somewhere down the line your time will come.

Don’t compare yourself to other aspiring writers. Don’t hate them for their success. You might hear of another writer getting a request, an offer, or even a publishing deal. It will probably sting a little. You might wonder why them and not you? Maybe they haven’t been at it as long as you have. Maybe you think your writing is better. Seeing another writer’s dreams come true while yours are still unrealized can make you question your self-worth. Don’t do that. Be happy for that writer. You know how hard this is. We’re in this together. Their success does not in any way make you a failure.

I won’t tell you to have patience. I know that’s impossible. But don’t obsess. I know how nerve-racking it is to check your email and wonder if today might be the day there’s good news waiting in your inbox. I know how one week can feel like one month and one month can feel like half a year. But you can’t stop living in the meantime. You can’t stop writing. You can’t focus solely on what may or may not happen when you could be focusing on making things happen. Start a new manuscript. Become a critique partner or beta reader to give back to others. Write some short stories. Don’t stop creating.

The query process is full of ups and downs. It can raise you up or tear you down if you let it. It requires you to strike a balance between remaining realistic and holding onto hope. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there and put your dream in the hands of someone else. I know it’s equally exciting and crushing. But it’s necessary if this is the route you want to go with your work. And it is worth it. I’ve been doing this a year, and I’m not ready to give in yet.

I remain hopeful.

I believe.

What are your experiences with query letters and requests? How do you handle the ups and downs? Reply below!

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Should These Pitches be Ditched? Part 3

This is my third installment of this, and I’ve only just realized I obviously missed the mark the first two times around. If you remember I originally did these as part of a school assignment where we were creating pitches for our work. The class never really explained what pitches were or how to go about doing them. We were just instructed to pitch our books in 3-4 sentences. Well, I ended up focusing on the 3-4 sentences part and trying to squeeze as much a possible into that. The end result was that my pitches sounded more like jacket summaries and were much too long.

Then a contest via Twitter came to my attention. It was called #pitchmas and the idea was to do the same thing: pitch your novel. Only this time I had much less room to work with because of the character limit and the requirement of adding the genre and hashtag into the pitch as well. It forced me to really cut, tighten, and perfect my pitches so that they were clear, concise, and hooking. Finally, I understood pitches.

The reward for the contest was that agents/editors/publishes watched the feed and would favorite the pitches they liked. This equaled a request for more material. At the end of the day-long contest I received three favorites aka three requests to see my work. I was shocked. Coming from someone who didn’t understand pitches and who had really just begun writing them, I was surprised mine got any interest. Now there were other writers who got many more. I heard of 14 from one and 20 from another. It was a great opportunity to not only write pitches but read other writers’ pitches as well. And I always learn from reading and seeing other examples. I also retweeted a lot of pitches I would actually really love to read the corresponding full books on. I hope they get published one day as well.

If this sounds really fun or helpful and you’re upset you missed out, don’t worry. Another pitch contest is being held on Jan 8th called #PitMad. Check out the info here. Work on your pitches and head over to Twitter on that day and see what happens! You have nothing to lose and only experience and good things to gain.

Here are some of my tightened up pitches.

Book 3 Pitches

*There are a lot of things Ezra Winchester didn’t see coming: his mother’s death, becoming a millionaire, and getting kidnapped. Now he sees things clearer: he’ll either fight for his freedom or die a hostage.

*Being a hostage was not part of Ezra’s plan for junior year. Now escaping with his life is the only thing that matters.

*Ezra is kidnapped for his money. His friends are taken because they’re witnesses. Together they’ll fight for their freedom or die captives.

Book 2 Pitches

*What if the bad boy is actually a gentleman and the good girl has a dark side? Can opposites attract if no one is who they say they are?

*Maddie knows how to take orders, not make choices. Cameron can take a beating, not give trust. Love will change them both.

*Maddie Carlisle and Cameron Dawson shouldn’t be together. She’s the lapdog for her popular clique, and he’s the defiant transfer student overflowing with secrets and bruises. When she trades ‘forbidden’ for ‘freewill’ opposition erupts everywhere.

And the Pitch I wrote in Part 2 for my current WIP I now realize could have been completely cut to just the first sentence:

*When eighteen-year-old Oliver Reid’s girlfriend dies and mysteriously appears as a ghost, he embraces the haunting, disregards the impossible, and sets out on mission to put the love of his life back together again.

What a difference!

For this post I’ll offer to help hone and critique anyone’s pitches. If you want to participate in #PitMad but need an extra set of eyes before next Wednesday, post your pitches in the comments, and I’ll give you feedback. I’d be happy to get a conversation going here!

Or if you see any issues or possible improvement for my pitches above, feel free to post that as well!

Happy pitching!

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Jigsaw Post

I have so many things to talk about today I feel like I should make three separate posts.

First of all, I want to recognize and pay my respects to author Ned Vizzini who passed away. I kept seeing the news last night on Twitter and through Facebook where he was kind enough to accept my friend request years ago, that he had passed. I was completely shocked as he was so young and talented. He’s made wonderful books and contributed to television and film as well. It’s so sad to lose someone you admired or who helped and impacted so many people with his work. Here’s a link to some of his books if you feel driven to check them out. Ned, I hope you are at peace. Thank you for your books, and I am truly sorry to know you’re gone.

Secondly, and on a lighter note there is another contest going on today through Twitter. The hashtag is #pitchmas and it is a pitch party for you to promote your manuscripts. Agents and editors watch the feed, and if they favorite your pitch that means they’re requesting to see more material. Here’s the link to the blog that created this wonderful party. Check out the details and guidelines and then head over to Twitter with your best pitches. Good luck!

Lastly, this is my final week of class for the English course that originally influenced the creation of this blog. As a summary of all we’ve done and learned about ourselves over the last 8 weeks, our final assignment is to describe who we think we are as writers and post it to an external audience. That’s you guys. So who am I as a writer?

I’m a dreamer.

Just like musicians imagine rocking out on stage or an actor sees his name in lights, I imagine my books sitting on the shelves of bookstores. I think about what it would be like to get fan mail from teenagers whose lives were somehow impacted by my books. I even think about what it would feel like to get hate mail. Maybe a teen writes to tell me I got it all wrong or a parent takes issue with my topics and content.

What writing means to me

I’ve said this before, but I need writing. I just don’t feel right when I’m not creating. It depresses me not to have a project going in my head or forming on the screen. I depend on writing to make me feel worthy some days.

What I write

I write YA or Young Adult. I’m not saying I can’t or won’t write anything else, but YA is my absolute love. When I go to bookstores I don’t even look at the other sections, and I can spend hours simply browsing the three rows of YA titles. I buy YA books faster than I read them because I can’t leave a book behind in a store if I think I might want to read it somewhere down the line. YA excites me. I love creating teen characters and hard situations or paths of discovery. If someone told me I couldn’t write YA anymore, I wouldn’t be the same writer. I probably wouldn’t have that same sense of worth and excitement because YA is such a big part of who I am as a writer. It’d be like telling someone they could only watch a certain genre of movie the rest of their life or never listen to their favorite band again. Those movies would never be what they really wanted, and they’d long for each band to be as good as their favorite. YA and I just go together.

So my goals from here are to keep writing. To keep trying to get published. I entered the world of querying this year and have participated in contests like #pitchwars and #pitchmas to try and get my work noticed. I want an agent. I want to go the traditional route. I want my books on shelves. I want to read love and hate mail, friend readers on social media, meet them at book signings. I want it all. Writing has been a journey and struggle, and the great thing about it is it’s never over. You keep growing and learning the more you do it. You have ups and downs; there’s just no way around that. It takes commitment, patience, hard work, hope, and undying love to be able to pursue this crazy dream. And I never want to give it up.

Thank you for reading. Who are YOU as a writer? Have you ever been saddened by the passing of an author you admired? Post below, and I hope to see all your pitches over on Twitter!

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Writing in 2013: A Look Back

This has been an exciting year for me with writing. At the beginning of the year I finished my second novel, a YA contemporary about a girl’s personal struggle with hating herself for being a follower instead of her own leader and how a new transfer student helps her change that. After I finished it I started researching literary agencies, how to query, what a synopsis should look like, and I began sending out letters seeking representation. Replies came back with plenty of rejections and one full manuscript request.

During the summer I began writing my third novel, a YA thriller centered around a kidnapping and the ensuing struggle for survival, to keep me busy while I waited on news from the queries. I finished it in only a few months and have just recently begun crafting and sending query letters for it. I’ve learned a lot this year about the writing industry, and I believe my work and I have both grown and improved. More than ever, I know this is something I need to keep pursuing.

Yesterday I answered questions about books I read this year for a blog link-up/e-book giveaway that this blog is running. Today, I promised to answer the writing questions. So here we are!

Check out yesterday’s post if you want to know what sort of books I read recently or if you need some new recommendations.

How many books did you write this year? (Estimate your overall wordcount for us too!)

I’ve written two this year. I wrote my second novel in the first half of the year which is 105,000 words. I wrote my third novel in a couple months later in the year, and it is stands at 60,000.

Which was your favourite to write?

My second was a totally different route from my first book, and I really like how one small idea came together and grew into what the book became. I had no idea where I was taking the story initially. All I knew was I wanted to write about two teenagers who lived across the street from each other and were from totally different worlds.  Seeing where it ended up from that idea feels really rewarding. The characters just took over and told their stories.

Which was the hardest to write?

I’d say 2 was also the hardest. I planned Book 3 out more whereas Book 2 took a lot of discovery which was really frustrating and overwhelming some days. Writing a female perspective was tougher for me as well because I usually do male narrators. Some days I just didn’t want to tackle the task. Book 3 flowed easier when actually writing.

Tell us about you favourite Male Character you wrote this year!

Book 2 introduced my MC’s love interest, Cameron Dawson, a mysterious bad boy next door that completely shakes up everything for my female MC. He’s damaged, but doesn’t take crap from anyone. He’s brutally honest and strictly secretive at the same time. He’s romantic and sensitive but violent and hardened. I liked his layers. I like writing rebels and damaged heroes.

And how about your favourite Female Character?

My MC in Book 2, Maddie Carlisle. She went through a complete transformation. At points you can hate her and her actions as much as she hates herself, but you feel sorry for her too because of the hard situations she’s in. You root for her then want to smack her when she doesn’t step up. She’s very dependent on others, and by the end it’s interesting to see if that’s still the same case. She has plenty of adversaries, but really she’s her own worst enemy.

Can you introduce us to some awesome sidekick(s)?

In Book 3 my MC’s best friend Tyler Hammons starts out as a flirty, pompous tough guy, and we’ll just say he gets a new perspective. Also in that novel a guy named Jasper Riley is a character who juggles a lot of different roles and affects the main character in ways he didn’t expect. His sidekick status isn’t that he’s funny or laughable, but shown in the importance of how he changes others and furthers the development of the story.

Any romances in your writing? Which couple didn’t go together as expected?

I’m not going to ruin the romantic subplots! But I will say all characters were meant to be together.

Show us the full cast in pictures from one of your books.

Actor Ezra Miller as Jasper Riley

Actor Ezra Miller as Jasper Riley

Actor Jake Abel as Tyler Hammons

Actor Jake Abel as Tyler Hammons

Actor Penn Badgley as Ezra Winchester

Actor Penn Badgley as Ezra Winchester

Actress Denise Vasi as Sadie Atwood

Actress Denise Vasi as Sadie Atwood

Actress AnnaLynne McCord as Peyton Hammons

Actress AnnaLynne McCord as Peyton Hammons

Epic quote(s) you wrote?

(Note: From Book 3. This quote ties into the title and has a lot of meaning for the events in the plot.)

“Ezra, on the road of life you have two choices.  You either stare in the rearview and look at where you’ve been until you crash and burn, or you look out through the windshield and focus on where you’re headed.”

Last word from your manuscript(s)! Go!

Book  2: journey.

Book 3: most.

Show us your favourite funny scene!

(Note: This is from Book 2 when the new guy, Cameron, first comes to Maddie’s school. I always hated when teachers would make you introduce yourself and then ask the class to say hi back so maybe this was my way of finally saying what I wish I could have back then.)

             Mrs. Nelson, our homeroom monitor, stands up with her attendance book and a happy smile on her face.  Before she starts calling off all our names or passing out fliers though, she walks over to Cameron’s side of the room and addresses the class.

            “Everyone,” she says, “we have a new student joining us today.  All the way from sunny California!” she says with added pep.  “Let’s do our best to make him feel welcome here at North Hill.”  She turns to Cameron with her smile spreading from ear to ear and gestures a hand at him.  “Do you want to tell us a little about yourself, son?”

            He finally looks up and tilts his head at her.

            “Are you actually giving me the option or just presenting me with a really nice command?” he asks back without missing a beat.

            Mrs. Nelson looks like someone knocked the wind out of her.  Her smile slowly turns into a frown and her brows furrow.  She stands meekly, confused that the new guy doesn’t want to stand up and share in her excitement.  When she doesn’t respond he says, “Okay then, I’ll share.”

            He stands up and faces the majority of the class. They stare back, sizing him up and ogling over his busted up face, trying to figure him out for themselves.  He isn’t speaking very long before they get
it.  Loud and clear.

            “My name is Cameron Dawson,” he begins.  “And I don’t care.”  Everyone stiffens as one.  “I don’t care if you don’t like me.  Chances are I won’t like you.  I don’t care if I hurt your feelings.  I don’t care if you want to talk about me because of it.  I don’t care about this piss poor town or your stupid school.  I don’t care if I pass or fail or even graduate.  I don’t care about your problems or how you want me to be.  And I don’t care, Mrs. Nelson, if you or any other teacher wants to punish me for not caring.  So I guess that covers my introduction.  You can spare me from all of yours’ because, you guessed it, I don’t care who you are.”

            He sits back down casually to a shocked silence.  Everyone is glancing around the room at each other between staring back at him. Mrs. Nelson is the worst of us all.  She’s frozen in place with her brows raised high and her mouth hanging open.  The silence drags on until someone finally shouts, “Freak!” from the back of the room.  Cameron just nods, like he was expecting it.

             And still doesn’t care.

Show us a snippet of dialogue you’re proud of.

(Note: From Book 2. Cameron is switching from his persona of not caring to pretending to have feelings for Maddie’s queen bee Jen in order to be accepted into their circle. He sits with Maddie during Jen’s dance practice and acts like he loves watching even though he can’t stand Jen.)

            “You know you’re pretty good at faking,” I say.

            “Yeah, well, it’s easy enough to act how I’m expected. It’s just more fun not to.”

            We watch them grind and shake and flaunt their bodies for a few minutes.

            “You know I’m like those girls you said you don’t want. I dress the same way Jenny does and let all sorts of guys stare me up and down, only letting them dream of ever being with me. I’m just like Jen.”

            Cameron breaks his gaze on the girls.  He stares into my face, suddenly serious.

            “You’re nothing like, Jen. You just don’t realize it yet.”

Tell us about some funny typos or writer-bloopers you’ve had this year!

I had two characters whose names both began with J in Book 3: Jasper one of the kidnapped teens and Jimmy one of the abductors.  I mixed them up in an important scene because I was typing so fast. Not good.

What has writing taught you about yourself this year?

I really started believing in myself a lot more this year. I started taking writing more seriously than just a hobby I’d do here and there. I committed to it more. I’ve learned about rejections and taking risks when you put yourself out there. I’ve felt defeated, but learned to keep going forward. It’s a process based on hope and fear, love and hate, uncertainty and confidence. It’s a strange thing.

Best piece of writing advice you learnt this year?

Read. Best advice is always read. Whatever type book you want to write, read as many as you can. Just as you learn from doing, you learn writing by reading.

Anything big on the horizons for next year? Plans to query? Publish? Edit?

Book 2 has been under consideration at an agency since the summer. Querying 3 is a definite next step. I also plan to edit Book 1 and make it presentable to query at some point.

Tell us a bit about a book you’re super excited to write in 2014!

I have so many ideas. One involves a guy with an eidetic memory who is thrown into a murder mystery. Another involves a comedic paranormal tale about a ghost, a necromancer, a reaper, and a psychic in which the MC’s girlfriend dies and comes back as a ghost, and the other characters are enlisted to bring her back to life again. I’d also like to do this modern Greek-myth fantasy, and I really want to write a book about gamers and videogames.

That’s it! Thanks for reading! Post any comments or questions below, and be sure to visit the original blog to enter the giveaway or answer these questions yourself!

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Interview with an Author: Patrick Donovan

I met Patrick earlier this year through a writing project he orchestrated with students at our university. He organized a group of writers to contribute short stories for an anthology book. The writers were fellow students at SNHU, both graduate and undergraduate, and all profits made from the book upon its release will be given to charity. Shortly after getting involved with the project, Patrick’s book Demon Jack was published. Today, he took the time to answer a few questions and share writing his experiences.

DT: First, tell us about your book. What is it about?

PD: Demon Jack’s about a lot of things. I usually joke it’s about an asshole who beats things up, but there’s more to it than that. It’s the first in a series, the series itself focusing on this idea of redemption. Jack, the main character, has a lot of flaws. He’s selfish, he’s violent, but he’s on his way back to being something better. I think that as the series progresses we’ll really get to see him grow into that role of hero, where as he’s more anti-hero right now. The first book sort of focused on his problems catching up with him, on him realizing that he can’t keep going like he’s going. The rest of the books will explore him growing from that.

DT: You write Urban Fantasy. How would you define your genre? Is there anything that annoys you about how Urban Fantasy is perceived or described?

PD: I’d define my genre as Tolkien set in New York, essentially. I mean there’s more to it than that, it’s vampires, werewolves, fae, all of that fun mythological and folklorish stuff, dropped right into the middle of some kind of city and the dynamic that comes with that. As far as something that annoys me, my biggest pet peeve is that a lot of people expect Urban Fantasy to be all about some kick ass heroine and her cadre of supernatural boyfriends, which is fine, but that’s not Urban Fantasy, that’s Paranormal Romance because most stories like that, the romance aspect tends to take the center stage. In that same regard though, there’s nothing wrong with said kick ass heroine, or her vampire were dolphin boyfriend, but I wanna read more about the ass kicking than I do the love triangles.

DT: What’s a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have a set schedule or make personal goals to reach?

PD: I usually start either late night or early afternoon, and depending on what I have going on set a goal of 2000 words. Sometimes that works out pretty well and I hammer it out in an hour or two, sometimes it takes me all day. I try to take days off too, let the story simmer in my noodle for a while.

DT: How do you overcome writer’s block or getting stuck?

PD: I ascribe pretty firmly to something Jim Butcher said: “I don’t have writer’s block, I have a mortgage”. Granted, some days are better than others writing wise, and everything just clicks, but in my head writer’s block is just an excuse.

DT: Is there any advice you wish you’d been given when you were first starting out or that you would go back and tell yourself now that you’re published?

PD: Maybe not when I was first starting out, but I had a college professor who would attempt to beat into my head the importance of editing. At the time, I sort of wrote in a bubble. I thought it was good. My friends thought it was good. Even if I didn’t edit, they’d tell me it was awesome. Granted, it may have been good, but it wasn’t publishable by any stretch of the imagination.

DT: Can you tell us about the publishing process and how your publishing deal eventually came about?

PD: The process itself was pretty rough. I have about 50 or so rejections that I saved. I started out querying agents, which I wish I hadn’t done now, just because I realize how fickle and subjective they can be. It’s pretty rough just getting form letter after form letter from folks saying you’re not good enough. Granted, once you do get that letter of interest saying you are good enough, that changes the game. After I got tired of the form letters, I went looking at small presses and found my current publisher Fable Press. They made me a deal and it’s been rolling since then.

DT: When did you officially decide writing was what you wanted to do?  

PD: When I was a wee lad and read my first Stephen King novel. I knew right then and there, that that was the road I was gonna go down. It only took me around….25 years to get here, and it’s still an uphill fight, but I’m getting there.

DT: Why do you write? What pushes you through this long, stressful process time and again?

PD: Honestly, it’s because there needs to be a little more magic in the world. If I can create that, even in a story, then I think I’m doing something good. Even if it only reaches one person, and my stories make that one person’s day better, then I’ve achieved what I set out to accomplish.

DT: Anything you’d like to add?

PD: Han shot first.

*Lightning Round!*

DT: What is your writing soundtrack?

PD: It really varies. Lately I’ve been listening to authors give convention talks. I think it’s because I can just tune out into background noise. Outside of that, I listen to a lot of classical or instrumental, Lindsey Stirling being one I’m really digging lately, her and Apocalyptica. Eminem’s new CD, Yelawolf too. A lot of 80’s and 90’s stuff. Motley Crue, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Type O Negative.

DT: What do you do for a “break” from writing?

PD: I’m a pipe smoker, so if I take a break it’s usually for a pipe (tobacco only people!) and coffee. I think it makes me feel all author like.

DT: If you could be any literary character or visit another written world, who would you be and where would you go?

PD: I’m gonna cheat a little here, because TV shows and movies are written before they are made, so they count. I’d either be The Doctor or Han Solo, one of the two.

DT: Can you name some book recommendations?

PD: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Anything by Neil Gaiman. Stephen King of course.

There you go! I want to thank Patrick for taking the time to answer these questions and share with us. Are there any follow-up questions you would like asked? Post below! And if you read Patrick’s book be sure to give him a review or shoot him a fan letter!

You can follow him on his author Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pdonovanauthor and subscribe to his blog at www.pdonovanauthor.wordpress.com

Demon Jack is currently on sale for Kindle devices over at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Jack-ebook/dp/B00EYG2YIM

More information about Patrick and Demon Jack can be found on the publisher’s site at

http://www.fablepress.com/

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