Sites To Help With Query Writing And Agent Submission

By Natasha R.

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At a publishing panel I did in January, I mentioned a few web sites that will help for traditional publishing. A lot of work goes into this, and doing your research is a must in order to make sure you submit not only to the right agent, but that your query letter, manuscript, and synopsis are ready to go.

  • Agentqueryconnect.com
    • This is a site dedicated to helping writers with their own query. You can post in on the forums and get feedback from other people on the site. Remember to give your own feedback. Even if you’re not an expert, reading through others queries will help you notice mistakes more readily. You’ll be able to help others and improve your own work.
  • Queryshark.blogspot.com
    • This site has tons of queries from the last few years readily available for you to read. My suggestion is to read them all, or at least as many as you can. As you go through the Shark’s archives you’ll see how she deconstructs them and how the author builds them back up into something sharper, cleaner, and something that will make an agent want to request pages.
  • Querytracker.net
    • This site is very resourceful for researching agents. It will show you what their genres include, who their current clients are, if they’re open to submissions, as well as a link to their website so you’re able to see their submission guidelines.
    • This site also lets you track your submissions, whether you were rejected, pages were requested, etc.
    • For one book you can use the free service, however if you have more one than one project it’s worth the $25 per year to be able to do multiple projects.
  • Publishersmarketplace.com
    • On the front you can get a bit of information about the agent, their clients, and sales. However, this site is a little bit more expensive at $25 per month. That’s out of my league at the moment.
    • My suggestion here is to do your research on query tracker, pay for a one month membership on Publishers Marketplace, research those agents as much as you can and then let the membership run out. Also take note of any other agents that may work for your story.
  • Absolutewritewatercooler.com
    • This site is absolutely a must to find out information from clients regarding agents, indie pubs, and other small publishers. You don’t even have to sign up. Just go to Google, type in the name of the agent/publisher and put absolutewritewatercooler next to it. 99% of the time, it’s the first link in the search engine.

I can’t stress enough how important research is.  This is going to help make your manuscript and all its components the best it can be, while helping you fine tune the list of agents you want to submit to. Taking these steps will make the process of submission a much easier one. The feeling of rejection is never a good one, but having a personalized reply instead of a form letter will ease the pain a bit. Doing your research and ensuring you follow guidelines give you a much better chance all around.

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Death To The Adverb!

By Natasha R.

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You may or may not have heard about the dreaded adverb and why it’s bad in writing. In case you haven’t though, let me start from the beginning.

Adverb – a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there )

So, what makes the adverb bad? Adverbs in and of themselves are not bad. They’re very prominent in academic writing and essays, but that sort of writing is meant to inform people. It’s telling. That, my friends, is why adverbs are considered lazy writing. A large amount of adverbs will make your manuscript telling and not showing.

Does that mean you can’t ever use an adverb? Of course not! Sometimes they’re appropriate, but most times, in the editing stage, you’re going to be able to pluck out those adverbs and find a stronger way to write your sentence.

Example:

Joan passionately, intimately, and abrasively kissed Michael. 

Whoah! That’s a lot of adverbs, and all telling. There’s no picture in my head of Joan and Michael’s kiss.

So, how do we turn it into showing?

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Week 1 Pep Talk

By Debby J.

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November is here! Are you guys ready to write those novels? The great news is, you are reading this and I doubt you need much pep to get your fingers flying. Week 1 is always the “easiest” week in NaNoWriMo for those who come prepared with at least a plot, or character, or setting, or something. For those who are hyper organized and have outlines and infographics galore, the first week is also pretty straight forward. This year, I need all the pep I can get because I’m coming into this thing with absolutely nothing. I can’t seem to get the microscope of my author’s vision to zoom into the lives of my characters. I’m stuck. I have no clue as to what I’m doing.

Would you believe me if I said this is how every November begins for me? I have a vague sense of “something” happening in some world I created in my mind. I usually start my novels for NaNoWriMo by describing the world in excruciating detail. It’s really painful to read because the minutiae is minutiae. But by starting about a million miles away from the action I can hone in on the important things happening. I see the big picture and slowly the focus comes and I suddenly have a character, a conflict, a scene, a something to work with.

So, if you are like me, then you may have nothing. But if you have even one thing to start writing about, even if it isn’t very good, you have the makings of your novel. To give you a taste of what my NaNo first days are like, here are the beginnings of my past NaNos.

  • 2008: Alison looked at her watch and sighed loudly. This was not the time nor the place. She was already running late for her doctor’s appointment and the bus was running even later.
  • 2009: It was the most baffling thing that came ashore. The sun was setting and the sky was clouded over and there it was. I squinted my eyes, not really believing that something like that was on the shore, but there is was. As I approached it, it became clearer, the features more distinct. I bent over and scooped it up, sand slipping between my fingers. I wiped my hands on my pants and tossed the object from one had to the other, getting a sense of its weight.
  • 2010: I remember everything about the day I left my home. My sister and brother each held a hand as my parents trailed behind us. We were headed to the convent where it seemed I was destined to spend my life. At least when I was seven it seemed like my destiny. Alisa was stoic. Her blue eyes looked straight forward and she almost seemed to tug at me, pulling me along faster then I really wanted to go. Alexander seemed to be a counterweight, dragging his feet as if to keep me from going away. And I just walked. Since the day I was born, I knew that just as Alisa was destined to inherit the family business and Alexander was destined for the military and, essentially politics, so I was destined for religion. It was the way things were done in Kyria.
  • 2011: Margie looked at the man and tried not to laugh. He was wearing a giraffe costume and looked absolutely ridiculous. She had requested a clown, not a giraffe. Or any animal for that matter. She smiled politely at the man and shook her head a little bit, her short brown hair swaying against her neck.
  • 2012: Taylor looked out at the ocean as her father’s ship flew away. He was only home for a few weeks at a time but Taylor loved the time she got to spend with him. He was a merchant by trade but was very well to do. He was one of the few individuals authorized to cross the border between Leylandia and Technologia. While considered a citizen of Technologia, he carried the precious steam technology through the sky and over to their rival nation. The two countries were as different as children from different parents. Technologia was a sprawling country that had mountains surrounding three sides and long coast that gave them port access. In the center of the country were forests. The country was not afflicted with deserts or tundra. The rich land lead Technologia to develop into a nation that was very technological. Their primary export was the steam technology that had come from all of the resources.
  • 2013: The black, pearlescent sand clung to her milky, pale skin. She flexed her fingers and toes and looked at the world around her. It was vastly different yet very familiar and similar to the world she came from. Lush green trees rose high up in the distance and even farther beyond were hillocks and mountains. The sky above was navy blue with spots that glimmered in the distance. Two giant orbs floated in the sky – one seemed to sit right on the horizon, a blue disc that reflected light. The other was smaller and high in the sky. It also did not seem to emit any light of its own. It was reddish in color and seemed to be pockmarked where the blue orb was smooth. 

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Getting Involved

By Natasha R.

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NaNoWriMo is a hectic time of year for those who participate. Everyone is frantic trying to make their word count for the day, let alone the month as a whole. Sometimes people have a massive muse, and sometimes it’s harder to get those words out. That’s why in each region there are events, both physical ones and online. Fort Writerdale events can be found on the NaNo forum here.

Granted we all have responsibilities in life, whether it be school, work, family, or whatever. Debby (our ML, make sure you learn who she is, cause she’s AWESOME) has put together several events all over Broward. Meeting other participants and joining the write-ins creates a positive atmosphere where everyone motivates each other.

NaNoWriMo is more than just sitting in front of a computer and writing. It’s community, and I recently got the chance to hang out with our fearless leader, Debby, one on and one, and see just how much she puts into it. She dedicates her time to making sure everyone has a fun, positive environment. Her dedication is amazing! She not only tries to write her own story in thirty days, but puts so much into making sure everyone else is motivated to do the same. Continue reading »

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Tools of the Trade

By Neliza Drew

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So, you’re pumped for November 1st. You have all the ideas – nay, All The Ideas! – and you’re ready to go. So, you’re going to need a way to write all those words. Below are just some ideas, some suggestions. Tools you can put in your toolbox or leave on the store shelf. You can always write by hand — and I know writers who swear by that, too. Heck, so many paper options, that could be its own post…

But, since it’s easier to count words with tech, let’s start with the tech.

MS Word 

The powerhouse. The go-to word processor for decades. The pricey prince if your computer didn’t come with a copy or you can’t just use it at work. There are other, free – or cheaper – options for writing your NaNoWriMo novel and I’ll talk about several below. That said, if you plan to eventually edit or submit your project for publication, you’re probably going to need Word at some point. While OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and gDocs will all give you a Word .doc or .docx file, they all are limited in their ability to display and interact with the changes and comments functions. If you have it or can afford it, Word is a great tool and if you’re very linear in your thinking or plotting, a blank page like Word is great. Additionally, if you’re willing to spring for the “rental” or subscription Office365 plan, it comes with a terabyte of cloud storage (so you have offsite backup for your new baby).

Pros: Has all the features and is fairly universal for sharing with critique groups or submitting to agents (after much editing – boatloads of editing). At this point, almost everyone has used it at some point.

Cons: Expensive and requires a computer you can download to, though there is a “online” version, but it’s honesty no better than some of the freebies.

Google Docs

How to Geek talks some about the pluses to Docs versus shelling out money for Word, but here are my two or three cents: Google Docs works great for shorter documents. I’ve used it for reviews and reports and short stories. You can convert your gdoc file to a .docx (new Word), a PDF, or a few other options. You can email it. You can print it. It saves automatically – even offline – and syncs to your Google Drive anytime it finds an internet connection. While in it, you can track your word count, copy, paste, change your font, insert tables, and most of the features you’re familiar with. That said, aside from not handling comments well, it gets slow – molasses going uphill in February slow – if your document gets much beyond 10,000 words. Which means, if you use Google Docs for your NaNowriMo project, you may want to split it up (by chapters, by acts, by 10,000 words, by whatever fits your story) into separate files until you’re ready for the big count at the end.

Pros: Totally free, syncs great across devices, and saves constantly.

Cons: Not that Mac friendly, mobile version is hard to edit, and it gets s…l…o…w… beyond 10k words.

Handoff & Continuity

I’ve heard great things about Handoff from Mac people. I’ve also heard terrible things about Yosemite, but I’m not a Mac person, so you’ll have to try it for yourself and let me know what you think. (For the record, I’m sure Mac is wonderful and everyone I know who has one talks about theirs like it’s the Ferrari of computers. I just…drive an ancient Jeep.)

Pros & Cons? You tell me.

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Paper Trade

By Neliza Drew

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Let’s say you’re super-pumped for November 1st. You’re cracking your knuckles and hopping up and down and doing your very best “I’m Ready!” dance…. But, you don’t have a computer of your own or you hate typing on your tablet or you want to write while your kid’s at soccer practice without whipping out a laptop or you’re technology-averse or you spend all day programming and the last thing you want from your muse is more screen time.

At any rate, yes, you can write your NaNoWriMo project by hand. And yes, you can even validate it and win.

Some writers swear by Moleskine or Field Notes. Others are big fans of Arc (and other discbound systems), the neat thing about those being that, like an analog version of Scrivener, you can rearrange the pages and write scenes out of order or include research sections without losing your mind.

Writers are often stationery and office supply fetishists, so if you talk to a bunch of them, you’ll probably find a lot of favorite pens and favorite papers and all sorts of oddball quirks that work for them, but might not work for you.

You don’t have to invest in a fancy paper system. You just have to find something that works for you. Heck, one of my favorite writers fills dozens of plain yellow legal pads before her novels are complete. You can use composition books, three-ring binders and loose-leaf, wire bound notebooks, the backs of grocery receipts (although then you might have to write rather small) or whatever else you find works.

And if you want to go full-on analog, designer David Seah has updated his printable word count tracker for 2014.

Don’t forget to check out the digital Tools of the Trade.

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Kick Off Party Notes

By Debby J.

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Howdy, Fort Writerdale!

Just wanted to make sure I put a post up detailing what you missed out on by not attending the awesome party, part 1. Fortunately, there is a part 2 that you are all welcome to attend and I hope you will RSVP!

We had a wonderful guest speaker present. Barbara Levenson is a published author who writes fiction with a specific interest in mystery. She started by asking everyone their experiences with writing (specifically asking about our experiences with writing, publication, and workshops or critique groups). Here is a quick list of the things she spoke about:

  • “If you want to write, get your butt in the chair, sit and write.”
  • Many people will start to write, but will get stuck and quit and never go back. It is better to put the writing away for a few days when you are stuck and go back to it.
  • The more your write, the better you write.
  • Her experiences started when she was young and she would tell stories and write plays for her friends to act out. Into adulthood, she started writing more technical writing because of her career but after taking a class she realized she also really wanted to write fiction.
  • She said that any experience or course is very beneficial and will get you writing.
  • She encouraged everyone to join a writing group and attend seminars. Seminars are great because you can pitch ideas, but even better you can talk about writing with people who are also writers.
  • She talked about her experiences with publishing and said that no matter what, to make sure you protect your rights. The Author’s Guild has lawyers on retainer who can help with your contracts if you are member.
  • She actually bought back the rights to her novels because she was unhappy with what the publishers were doing (or not doing!).
  • Barbara also said that stories can be character-driven or plot-driven. She said that with NaNoWriMo it is likely the stories we write will be plot-driven since 50k words is not a good amount to really develop the characters.
  • She personally doesn’t outline because generally speaking she knows what major things have to happen (even if the how is vague) and knows the final outcome.
  • She knows these things because she spends a lot of time thinking (mostly when ironing and baking).
  • She said a complete work that is 50k words long is more like a novella than a novel.
  • There are no rules to writing. However, you still need to establish your point of view (POV).
  • Your POV should not change from one paragraph to another or even in the middle of a chapter.
  • She strongly encouraged we avoid the use of adjectives and adverbs.
  • We did a short writing activity. We wrote a paragraph without using adjectives or adverbs. The prompt was “He looked at the river and saw something he couldn’t explain.”
  • My paragraph: Juan looked at the river. A breeze caressed the river; ripples crossed the service as Juan stared. A fish leaped from the water and landed on the river bank. While he watched, another fish floundered out. And another. Juan looked to the sky filled with sunshine and clouds. A comet hung high beside the moon. Today was going to be something special.
  • She spent some time talking about showing and telling. It is better to show and you can use dialogue to show things. If you want to show with a scene, then use action words.
  • Dialogue makes your characters real.

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Wearing Many Hats

By Jamie W.

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Hello, again. 🙂 I promised you all a post before, but another more timely one came in I wanted to get out. That all said, you may have noticed that these Friday posts I do usually come out a bit later in the day than other posts. Basically? It comes down to one thing: A desperate need of organization and feeling a bit overwhelmed at times.

I’m sure you know what I am talking about. As authors, we usually wear a ton of other hats. We’re also editors. Marketers. Some of us are designers as well. Add in jobs (Stephen King pointed out in On Writing only 5% of authors make enough to live solely on their books alone), and it gets even crazier.

That’s where the need to organize and get on a schedule is so critical. Here are some things I am planning to implement and some resources to help.

  • Make a list. While I fell out of the habit for a little while, I love to-do lists. They bring some structure to my day and it feels great to see things getting checked off.  Put the highest priority stuff at the top and work your way down.
  • Be Realistic. This is related to lists, and a trap I’ve fallen into a few times. I’d start jotting down a ton of things that I needed to get done and only get half of the list completed. I was trying to jam too much in one day, which left me feeling disappointed and even more overwhelmed.

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But I Want to Start NOW

By Tina R.

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Those of us who have ventured into the stormy seas of NaNoWriMo before know this familiar feeling. Whether you are a pant-ser or a plotter, with seven days to go you are itching to get started.

You could start writing now, stop reading this post and pull out your notebook or journal, or open up a new word document and begin putting down the words you’re aching to write. Nothing is stopping you. NaNoWriMo works on an honor system and you’re the only one who will ever know that you didn’t follow the rules. Winning though won’t feel quite as sweet, knowing that you reached the finish line because you started early. So what do you do with yourself for the next seven days? How do you avoid temptation? Having done NaNoWriMo for more years than I can count now and having won and lost I have a few suggestions; seven in fact, one for each day until November 1st.
1) Housework. Ugh, I know but if the hamper is empty and all the dishes washed you’ll have more guilt-free time to write and less complaints from those who live with you. So NaNo clean. Trust me your house will fall apart over the next thirty days, so consider this a preemptive strike.

2) Go shopping. Make a list. What do you need to make it through these intensive days of writing? Get yourself a crock pot. Stock up on K-Cups or buy yourself a couple of Starbucks cards. Buy some Halloween candy and make yourself a stash. Look for deals on frozen pizzas or frozen dinners. Do you have enough pens, a flash drive? Stock up now. Don’t forget a new DVD for the kids. Frozen, anyone?

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Being a Multi-Genre Author

By CP Bialois

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Hello everyone!

Being a multi-genre author is a topic that’s been one of the most discussed topics in the writing groups I’m in, so I thought I’d throw my two cents in and share my thoughts.

As many of you know, I’m a multi-genre author. For me, it’s a simple choice since I have an interest in just about everything and anything. I love sci-fi and fantasy, action adventure and horror, so it’s easy for me to have ideas and stories in all of those that I want to explore and share.

Sounds simple, right? Not so fast.

There are many arguments against being multi-genre and some of the most vocalized cons of doing so I’ve heard are: “Your readers won’t know what to expect from you”, “You need to make it easy for your readers to find you”, and “It’s easier to brand your books if they’re in the same genre”.

Now, those are all good arguments to a certain extent. Let’s take the first one about our readers not knowing what to expect.

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