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Friday, December 22, 2006

Heartbeat Intern Contest for beginning writers

HEARTBEAT INTERN CONTEST for Pre-Pubbed, Pre-PRO Romance Writers

Accepting entries starting January 1, 2007!

This is a brand new contest aimed at beginners. In other words, if you’ve been published in any format at any time, or have achieved RWA-PRO (Romance Writers of America) status, you’re not eligible.

CATEGORIES & JUDGES
Romantic Suspense: Patience Smith - Silhouette Suspense.
Erotic Romance: Alicia Rasley - Red Sage
Anything Romance w/ Medical Elements: Sheila Hodgson - Harlequin Mills & Boom Medicals
Inspirational Romance: Melissa Endlich - Steeple Hill
Series Romance (long & short): Scott Eagan - Greyhaus Literary Agency
Single Title Romance: Hilary Sares - Kensington

First place winners in each category will receive
a critique from Lois Winston, Agent with Grayson Literary Agency.


TIMELINE

1. Entries accepted from January 1 - February 1 (Entries with a postmark of February 1 or before will be accepted until February 6).
2. If a deadline falls on a Saturday/Sunday, the entry is due the following Monday.
3. February 10 - March 15: First round judging
4. March 25: Announcement of finalists
5. April 5: Final round entries due to coordinator
6. April 10-May 15: Final round judging
7. May 30: Announcement of winners

To see the complete rules and scoresheets, go to:
http://www.geocities.com/heartbeat_rwa/HeartbeatInternContest.html

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dialogue—exclamation points

Oh, goodness! Sara’s heart pounded in her chest. “Josephine! I didn’t even see you there!”

While just 10 years ago, books had tons of exclamation points all over the place, these days, most editors prefer limited use of exclamation points, especially in dialogue.

They typically suggest using them only if someone is screaming or shouting, rather than just a raised voice.

Some are nazis about it, some aren't. I would suggest getting rid of as many exclamation points as you can just in case you come across someone who's picky about it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dialogue—distinct voice

Separate from your own unique writer’s voice is each individual character’s voice. Sometimes writers will not make each character’s own dialogue distinct enough to be able to tell characters apart.

Many times, if you remove the dialogue tags and action beats from a scene of dialogue, the two characters will sound exactly alike, whether it’s two men, two women, or a man and a woman.

Each character should be so individual that even their speech patterns are distinct. I’m not talking about dialect or slang.

Lots of things can contribute to character voices--pacing and rhythm, word choice, grammar, sentence length, casual versus formal. Don’t cop out and give one person a lisp or a dialect—try to make them unique just by their words alone.

You, as the writer, know who is who as you hear each character talking in your head. The challenge is to convey the distinction on the page to the reader.

One exercise I like to do is to take an incident and have different characters tell it. Often, I can see—and hear in my head—the differences between them as the characters convey the exact same information as each other. It’s especially useful if I’m seeing that two characters tend to use the same phrasing as each other—it’s a clue for me to try to change their character voices to be more distinct.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dialogue—necessary

When reading contest entries or manuscript for critiquing, sometimes dialogue goes on for too long. This can affect pacing, and it can also disengage the reader if the dialogue isn’t necessary to character development or the plot.

Look through your own manuscript to see if a few interchanges in a scene of dialogue might be unnecessary. Sometimes things like that are needed to set tone, or reveal character, but look through your dialogue to see if anything can be cut. You as the writer have a good feel for what's vital to your voice and the tone, and what might be just fluff.

Most writers say that anything that can reduce word count will usually only make the story better. Anything that can speed up the pace a bit during action scenes (dialogue) will help glue the reader to the page.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dialogue—online articles

Rather than listening to me talk, why not read a few good articles on dialogue:

http://www.jamesscottbell.com/Site/Dialogue%20Tips.html
http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artdialogue.htm
http://www.pammc.com/dialogue.htm (good examples of proper punctuation for dialogue)
http://www.charlottedillon.com/Articles.html
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/index.shtml

These last two are websites with several articles on various topics, including dialogue.

These links were current as of the publishing of this blog post. If any are broken, please e-mail me or leave a comment to let me know.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dialogue—read plays

Mark Goodyear made a great point that one way to learn to write good dialogue is to read good dialogue, and one of the best resources are good plays. Specifically, the Tony winners, since aren’t those the best plays written in America?

If you go to his blog post about it, he gives the website of the Tonys and how to search for plays to read.

Plays can be found in your local library. They might also be in the drama department of your local high school and available for loan, so send your child on a recon mission. Another good resource is online stores where you can buy cheap used copies (which you can then flag and mark up with notes).

Look for dialogue that moves you, then look through it again to discover why. Look at pacing, sentence rhythm, word choice—especially word choice specific to certain characters. Judicious use of sentence structure and sentence length also make up good dialogue.

Once you analyze good dialogue, you’ll find you’ll be more critical of your own writing as you work on your dialogue scenes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dialogue—no tension

All dialogue should have some type of conflict. Exchange of information or small-talk is boring and slows the reading flow. The characters don’t need to be fighting with each other, but there should be something one of the characters is fighting FOR. Fighting to hide information, fighting to obtain information, fighting to right a wrong, fighting to convince the other.

In the words of Randy Ingermanson (Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine), “Dialogue is war.” A dialogue with two strong forces has the energy to propel the story forward. It tends to be highly emotional, but at the same time very simple and direct (unlike actual conversation in real life). The best way to have both emotion and simplicity is to lay the dialogue down first and then go back later to refine, cut, clarify.

Because dialogue is emotional, it also tends to be more give-and-take, more back-and-forth. In our modern publishing industry, it’s rare to have a character go on and on without the other character responding. Each character reacts to the previous line of dialogue.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dialogue—too many action beats

“I know you did it.” He slammed his fist on the table.
She fingered her long necklace with manicured fingers. “I never said I did.”
“We have you on tape.” He reached out to touch the micro-recorder.
“I told you, I was only joking when I said that.” She wouldn’t look at him.
He crossed his arms and glared at her. “People don’t joke to kill someone.”
“That’s not true. People joke about killing their friends all the time.” She crossed her arms and stared him down.

Even though we vary the sentence structure and the position of the dialogue, the action beats in this conversation are a bit much.

You don't need to identify the speaker every time he speaks. You can have back and forth a bit and still know who's speaking.

Action beats should have a purpose--to show inner emotion or characterization, not just as filler in between lines of dialogue.

“I know you did it!”
“I never said I did.”
“We have you on tape.”
“I told you, I was only joking when I said that.” She wouldn’t look at him.
“People don’t joke to kill someone.”
“That’s not true. People joke about killing their friends all the time.” She crossed her arms and stared him down.

The action beats in the example above have definite purpose for the reader. “She wouldn’t look at him” clues the reader into the fact she might not be telling the truth. When she crosses her arms and stares him down, it’s showing her spunk under fire.

A good exercise to try is this: Rewrite this dialogue where each character can only speak one short sentence--that's it. No dialogue tags, no action beats. See how it changes your perspective on the dialogue then.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dialogue—info dump

“As you know, Bob, your mother left you at the age of five to run off to California with the family lawyer, leaving you to be raised by your bohemian grandparents. Do think it’s affecting your judgment about this child abandonment case?”

Be careful about dialogue that’s there just to inform the reader. Bob would know what his mother did, and wouldn’t need to be told or reminded.

“You’re too close to this case, Bob.”
“What do you mean?” He crossed his arms.
She spoke with a hitch of hesitation in her voice. “You were the same age as this kid when your mom . . .”
She didn’t have to say it. As a child, he’d prayed for an earthquake to swallow up both his mother and the ex-family lawyer in California. Maybe he was too close to this.

Some things won’t seem like telling at first, but at closer look they might:

She spoke with a hitch of hesitation in her voice. “You were the same age as this kid when your mom left you for the family lawyer.” (Does Bob need to be reminded whom she ran off with?)

vs.

She spoke with a hitch of hesitation in her voice. “You were the same age as this kid when your mom left.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #7

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Keep practicing.

Voice is developed by writing, writing, writing.

Try doing a voice writing exercise each week. It only takes a few minutes, and that weekly stretching and warm-up will help your writing the rest of the week.

And not just short exercises--use your manuscript as practice ground for unleashing your raw voice. Take a scene, or a page of your manuscript. Work some of the exercises with that piece of your writing. Not only will you be developing your voice, you’ll also be working on beefing up your manuscript.

Don’t be discouraged if the exercises don’t seem to be showing dramatic results. Often a writer’s voice comes out subtly, in waves or glimpses.

Some writers’ voices are loud, others are soft and more subtle. Don’t assume you’re one or the other. Don’t fall prey to preconceived notions. Just WRITE. Be yourself.

With diligence and perseverance, your voice will come roaring out of you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #6

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Speak your voice through characters.

Like a ventriloquist, you throw your voice into a story character so that it's you and yet not you speaking. More than anything, it should be the character's voice that dominates, but your own voice will add vibrancy to your character.

Your heroine will have her own unique way of speaking, and it will also depend on her audience. She may speak one way to her mother and a different way to the hero. Through it all, don't be limited by her personality--rather, let her individuality unleash your own raw voice.

Take a persona and notice if you speak directly in his voice--in his skin--or describe him as if you're in the room. Sometimes, this can indicate a preference for first person versus third person.

Let this persona be uninhibited. Give her the quick mouth that would never survive in the real world.

Experiment with different personas completely different from who you are--an extrovert if you're an introvert, or a high-powered attorney if you're a teacher. Put them in different situations to discover who they are on deeper levels--stick your extrovert in a Hollywood party and then a monastery, or move your attorney from New York to Taiwan.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #5

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Take a lesson from children's storytelling.

When children tell stories, they improvise with things connected to their emotions, urgent and important to them at the moment. The duckie in their lap, the blue carpet, the stinky smell from the diaper bag, the lint under the table. It doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't have to be polished.

What makes their stories compelling is that it's raw and free. Our writers' voices come out when we can emulate their storytelling mindset.

This is related to what we say in public and private. There are certain things we will only say to our families, or sometimes just to ourselves. I'm not talking about foul language or unpleasant bodily functions. Opinions, one-line zingers, rage, frustration, joy, pride--good things, bad things. All uncensored.

Voice can come out when we start to blur the lines between the two, the way a child does. Children don't know what's acceptable to say in public versus private. They say what comes into their heads, guided by emotions.

Adults tend to edit ourselves, even when we don't think we are. But what if you didn't? What if you wrote everything and anything--the good, the bad? What if it was just a matter of getting it all down, no matter what it looked like, no matter that it didn't make sense, no matter that you'd never let another living soul see what you wrote?

Voice is that raw writing. Don't stress because the editing will come later. Write on any topic, going off on any tangent, making whatever associations you feel like. Just get it down. You'd be surprised at what comes out of you, and it might even start you off on new, uncharted ground.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #4

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Discover your natural rhythm.

All of us have a natural cadence to our speech and thoughts. It's a combination of our genes and environments. For every writer, it's unique.

Write nonsense words in grammatically correct sentences, or do free-writing--keep the pen moving even if you just write nonsense or the same sentence over and over.

You'll discover things about your voice. Your sentence length, your word choice. Alliteration, metaphors, similes. Twists of phrase, dialect. Learn to be aware of these aspects of your voice's cadence.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #3

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Write your voice with your whole body.

An opera singer or a screaming child uses his entire body to project his voice. It's a comprehensive, total physical feat. A writer is the same. You want to use your entire being--your whole body--to bring out your writer's voice. This will mean different things to different writers.

The important thing is to discover your own all-encompassing combination of rhythm, force, and music that is your voice. The key is all-encompassing--try to involve all of you, not just your mind.

Try to imagine what it's like for you to write from your gut, from your toes, digging in with your shoulders, straining with your spine. Make it an energetic feat, requiring force and strength, pulling in aspects of your whole body. Then just do it--free-write.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #2

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Unusual situations and a sense of urgency will bring out voice.

External stimuli: Create a certain setting or mood by surrounding yourself with objects that will put you emotionally in different states. Try laying on your desk several things that make you mad. Or maybe things that make you sad. Be creative and utilize all five senses. Create different atmospheres that run the gamut of your emotions--don't hold back. Explore difficult emotions, intense emotions.

Internal stimuli: Use your mind to put you in different places, at different times. A cold, lonely prison cell. A loud, crowded prison cell. An abandoned warehouse during WW2 with bombs exploding. A desolate cornfield during the Depression. What's important is to put yourself in an unusual situation or one with some type of emotional urgency. Immerse yourself in your imaginary world, feel the culture and tension around you.

Once in that atmosphere, whether external or internal, free-write. Write about anything and everything. Use the computer or use a pen and paper. Don't let yourself stop writing--write gibberish or repeat yourself if you have to.

Do this for many different types of external and internal stimuli. The object is to experiment and discover what stimuli helps create that sense of urgency to unleash your voice.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Developing your writer’s voice #1

One vital way to make your writing stand out is voice. In many of the contest entries I've judged and manuscripts I've critiqued, writers have muted their natural voice to sound bland and generic.

Writing that's alive with its own distinct vocal flavor is a joy to read. The prose is richer and more vibrant, the characters more three-dimensional--all because the writer opens herself to her own writing style and revels in it.

However, voice can also be the most difficult and slippery aspect of writing craft to discover and perfect.

Raw, creative voice often doesn't result in a polished piece. The key is to first lay down the story with your unhindered voice and polish later.

But how to unleash your voice?

Many times, a writer's internal critic is hampering the free reign of his unique style, but certain exercises can help him lift all restraints, open the cage door, and let the lion roar.

Not all these exercises will work for every writer, but some might enable you to find and/or further develop your voice.

(Most of these exercises are taken from Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall)

Distill your raw voice.

Do automatic or free-writing writing and put it away for a week.

Return to it and pull out words or phrases that grab your attention. Do another free-write with those key phrases, and put it away for another week.

Highlight the passages that speak to you, and delete everything not highlighted. You should be left with writing that profoundly impacts you--your unique voice. If the writing still seems diluted, repeat the process.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Terry Whalin's Writing Tip of the Day

Howard Books fiction editor Terry Whalin has started a "Writing Tip of the Day" where you can insert html code into your blog or website and have his writing tip automatically change each day. He has 31 tips now, and intends to write more later.

Information is at this blog post.

I've inserted it in my sidebar so you can see what it looks like. It's a terrific idea and Terry's background and expertise makes him an ideal person to write these tips for writers.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Proposals—Comparative/Competitive/Marketing Analysis

This is a page or two listing books similar to yours but different in some way. This is to show how your book would both fit in and stand out from the books already in print.

Make sure the books you list aren’t too old. List recent titles over older ones.

Show clearly how the books are similar, but also show clearly how yours differ. For example:

Embryo Factory: The Stem Cell Wars by Rev. Richard A. Humphrey and Dr. Loren J. Humphrey, ACW Press, 2003.
This Christian suspense dives deep into the complex moral and technical issues surrounding stem cell research, using a minister and a physician as protagonists. Bitter Dragon also deals with stem cell research, but takes the issue a step further into human cloning and fetal tissue harvesting for disease therapy, with a backdrop of action and adventure pushing the Asian heroine into danger.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Proposals—marketing plan

Don’t list things like “willing to appear on Oprah”—well, duh. Plus so few authors actually make it on Oprah, period.

Be specific about what you personally can do. What groups do you belong to, and what can you realistically do to use your connections to promote your book?

For example: Do you work in a school and can you influence the librarian or other schools’ libraries to carry your book? Do you belong to any national organizations and can you give workshops on your book topic at your local chapter? Do you have an active blog or website and can you utilize that to spread the word on the internet?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Proposals—your bio

If you don't have many writing credits, don't point it out. If you have a lot, point only to the relevant ones. If you wrote an article on abuse in Woman's World and an article on stretching in Runner's World, include the Woman's World but not the Runner's World.

If you belong to a national writers organization like RWA, ACFW, SFWA, MWA, then include it. Also include if you’ve ever worked in a publishing house or for a magazine.

Don't ramble on for paragraphs and pages about your family and experiences—keep it to only those things that are pertinent for your story. If the main plot of your story is about hang-gliding and you've done that several times, then include it. But if your story is about the stock market, then don't include the hang-gliding experience.

Your social connections can also have pertinence. If your story is set in medieval Scotland and you belong to a local Scottish Heritage group, then mention that. However, if the main plot or characters of your story don’t have anything to do with your social groups, don’t include them.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Writer Beware website and blog

This is a great website uncovering various agent scams and unscrupulous practices among agents.

http://www.sfwa.org/beware/

There's also a highly informative blog.

http://www.accrispin.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Proposals—story blurbs

This is basically the same as the story blurb you included in your query letter.

Your story blurb will either hook the editor or not. Here are some pointers.

1) Try to write it in the tone or voice of the novel. If your manuscript is a romantic comedy, make the blurb sound fun and flirty. If your novel is a dark thriller, make the blurb sound sinister and exciting.

2) It should name the main protagonists. The villain can also be named if he/she is a major protagonist.

3) The main protagonists' external goals should be clear.

4) There should be some hint of the major obstacle(s) in the protagonists' way.

5) A nice touch is to add a little info on the main protagonists' internal or spiritual conflicts.

6) Unlike a synopsis, you do not need to give away the ending, but you may if you prefer.

Example:

Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins, so she throws herself into her wedding accessories shop in the mall. She’s becoming so savvy and self-sufficient, she hasn’t needed to bother God for any help in a while.

Three weeks before the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, her non-Christian brother makes a crazy deal—he’ll go to church with the family if she finds a date for the service. Risa can’t ask family friend Ben Higashi—the entire church knows rice would stop sticking before he’d be interested in her, so they’d assume she couldn’t find anyone else. Ben suggests the mall-sponsored Speed Dating, but when she uncovers a mall shoplifter mystery, can she discover both Mr. Right and the crook as her twelve dates turn into the Twelve Nightmares before Christmas?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Proposals—basic structure

Not all proposals are set up the same way, but here’s a bare-bones structure of a typical one.

--(optional) Story blurb. Just a paragraph—two to four sentences—about the story. Similar to back cover copy.

--Synopsis. Should be about one to two pages long. DO reveal the ending. This is the entire story laid out. See “Synopsis” on the right sidebar to see my other articles on synopsis writing.

--Bio. Your writing credits, any experience in the writing or publishing industry, and any social connections or life experiences that have any relevance to the story.

--Hook. What makes this story unique? How is this story different from any other book that’s sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Noble? What kind of spiritual, emotional, or personal message will a reader glean from it?

--Category/genre. Make it easy for the editor/agent to know what the major genre is.

--Length of manuscript. Round to the closest 100 or 1000 words.

--(optional) Alternate titles. Expect your publisher to change your title.

--Completion date. If it’s already completed, say so. It’s highly recommended for first-time novelists to wait until their manuscript is complete before submitting to agents and editors.

--Audience. Don’t say “everyone.” Give a specific demographic, but not too specific—i.e., 16-year-old females living in Little Rock, AR, with two sisters, a cat and a dog.

--Marketing plan. This doesn’t have to be extensive unless you want it to be. Be specific about what you personally can do. What groups do you belong to, and what can you realistically do to use your connections to promote your book?

--(optional) Competitive Analysis/Marketing Analysis. This is a page or two listing books similar to yours but different in some way. This is to show how your book would both fit in and stand out from the books already in print.

--(optional) Chapter by chapter synopsis. Not all agents/editors will read this, but I usually include it just in case they want to see more detail about the way the plot and character arc unfolds. I wrote a short post on how to write one here.

Also don't be redundant. If you mentioned something in one area of the proposal, don't repeat it in another section.

Everything I learned about proposals is from Mary Griffith's online workshop "From Premise to Proposal," which is in the ACFW members' section in the workshop archives.

Friday, October 20, 2006

PSYCHOLOGY FOR SCREENWRITERS by William Indick

Psychology for Screenwriters by William Indick

From the back cover:

To make their stories come alive, screenwriters must understand human behavior. Using this book, writers can make Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, and Joseph Campbell their writing partners. Psychology for Screenwriters helps scribes craft psychologically resonant characters and conflict. You’ll learn to create convincing motivation, believable identity and development, and archetypes that produce authentic screen moments.

Camy here:

It might be because I majored in Psychology in college, but I thought this book was one of the more fascinating writing books I’ve read this year.

This book was most useful to me to explain the concept of archetypes and dramatic situations—why there only seem to be a limited number of them that are used often in drama and novels, why they’re important, the psychological theories behind them that explain their power over an audience or a reader.

As writers, we’ve read about archetypes and the dramatic situations, we’ve learned about the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey. I never understood exactly why they were important, why they seemed to always work.

This book explains the psychological theories behind them so that I as a writer can better understand and craft my own stories for better emotional impact.

The psychological concepts are written in such a way that they’re easy to understand. The author covers several psychological theories because each tends to build on each other and each emphasizes a different aspect of human behavior. For example, Erikson and Jung’s theories are inspired by but differ from Freud, and the book explains how and why.

The author explains these psychological theories to help the writer better understand why certain archetypes and story structures resonate with the majority of audiences. For example, it was fascinating to me to discover why each character archetype shows up over and over in stories, and why each archetype has a tendency to evoke the kinds of emotions it does.

It was really neat to understand why the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey work successfully in film time and again despite the fact they seem “formulaic” in nature. Both journeys are broken down—not just the hero’s journey. The author explains why each step and why the journey as a whole resonates psychologically with people in general.

I especially liked the presentation of the Hero's Journey. Not having read Campbell's book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I found that this book gave the Hero's Journey in excellent detail with good examples, so that I was able to apply the Journey to my own novel plotting.

The Heroine's Journey is well done as applied to archetypes and psychological principles, but I prefer the Heroine's Journey as described in detail in Victoria Lynn Schmidt's 45 Master Characters.

I thought the book gave many excellent examples from movies, and at the end of each chapter are very useful summary points and exercises the reader can apply to their own stories.

The book focuses on popular or commercial fiction, because the reason popular fiction is so “popular” is due to the psychological resonance of these archetypes and dramatic situations.

However, several of the concepts can also apply great power to literary fiction. By understanding archetypes, literary authors can turn characters and situations on their heads to evoke the different kind of emotional response they’re looking for. They can find ideas and methods to emphasize the reader’s emotions in more unique ways, which is what literary fiction is known for.

I don’t know if this book would be as useful to a beginning writer, but a higher-intermediate to advanced writer who has read several of the basic books about plot, structure, and character will be able to fully appreciate the different take on writing techniques in this book.

I believe that as writers, we should always be learning new things and understanding our craft in better ways. For me, this book did just that. I now have a much better understanding of characters and situations, and how to manipulate both for certain emotional responses.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dialogue—back and forth

One thing I see often in the entries I judge in contests is long passages of dialogue.

And why not? Jane Austen got away with it. Historical romance writers—even the current best-selling ones—have long paragraphs of one person talking.

Granted, historical novels have a completely different atmosphere that’s more conducive to long stints of dialogue, but let’s face it, folks—do YOUR friends like to hear you talk for that long without stopping?

Believable dialogue in contemporary fiction, especially, needs shorter passages and more back-and-forth between characters. One person says a sentence or two, the other person responds to what they said.

Historical fiction can have slightly longer passages, but big ole’ long honkin’ paragraphs might lose your reader’s attention.

Shorter passages of dialogue also serve to pick up the reading pace. Long passages of dialogue can become ponderous to the reader and stall the story flow.

Here’s an exercise that takes this to the extreme, but can help you to break up any long passages of dialogue in your manuscript:

Take a scene of dialogue, any scene. Rewrite it so that each time a person speaks, they can only use A MAXIMUM OF FIVE WORDS. Then the other character has to respond before the first speaker can continue talking.

It’s fun, but it’s also a good way to show how shorter dialogue can make the reading pace a lot snappier and the story flow faster.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why do I need to trim a synopsis?

I probably should have run this post when I started my short series on cutting a synopsis. (Click on "Synopsis" on the sidebar to see all my synopsis posts.)

While I haven’t talked to every editor and agent on the planet, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to prefer a 2-3 page synopsis.

However, every editor is different. One editor will want a one-page synopsis, another will want an extensive chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

In my experience, it’s usually better to opt for the shorter synopsis when submitting a proposal. If they want a longer one, they usually specifically mention that they do.

Another reason to have a short synopsis handy: Writing contests often have you submit a short, 1-2 page synopsis with your entry.

Here’s a little tip: when querying a novel, it doesn’t hurt to slip a one-page synopsis in with your one-page query letter. And it doesn’t cost any more in postage.

Also, when submitting a partial manuscript or a proposal (only at the editor’s request, of course), most standard proposals consist of a 2-3 page synopsis, not a chapter-by-chapter.

Sometimes you can include both a 2-page synopsis and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis in with the proposal, to give the editor his/her pick of whichever length they prefer. However, I put the chapter-by-chapter synopsis at the very end of the proposal, so that the editor/agent can choose not to read it if they don’t care to.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Picking an agent #9—Ask around

If you don’t have a chance to go to a conference and meet the agent face-to-face, or if the agent doesn’t attend the conference(s) you go to, then ask other writers about their agents.

If you belong to an online writers group, ask them to e-mail you privately about their agents. Ask about communication styles and work ethics. Ask them about their relationships, how the agent works, etc.

Also, tell them you’ll keep all their information completely confidential.

Another good idea is something a published author did (I want to say Rene Gutteridge did this, but I’m not positive)—she contacted several editors and asked them to give her the top three agents they enjoy working with. That way the editors aren’t put on the spot about any particular agent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Picking an agent #8—Communication

All agents have different communication styles.

Some agents are more minimalistic—short, to-the-point e-mails, and not very frequent. Some of them don’t mind if you contact them often, they just won’t contact you back as much. Other agents, however, prefer minimal contact from you, as well. For some people, this type of minimal-communication agent is what they prefer—they don’t want to be bombarded by information they don’t really need, they just need an agent who will work in the background for them.

Other agents are more in contact with their clients. They e-mail and/or call frequently, and welcome reciprocal contact from clients.

Since I am a more chatty person, my agent is the latter. That simply meshes with my personality—it’s an individual choice.

For you, figure out what kind of communication the agent has. Ask questions. Give hypothetical scenarios.

“How often will you contact me in a typical week?”
“Once you send the manuscript to editors, how often will you contact me? What will you contact me about, and what will you not contact me about?”
“What is your preferred method of communication?”
“If I e-mail or call you, when can I expect you to e-mail or call me back?”

Monday, October 09, 2006

Picking an agent #7—Bad agents

Randy Ingermanson wrote an excellent article about bad agents in his Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine:

.PDF file

text file

No agent is much better than having a bad agent. At best, a bad agent will not push your manuscripts promptly and will waste your time. At worst, a scammer will take your money and ruin your chances with publishers through reprehensible business practices.

Anyone can print up a business card and call themselves an agent, whether they have any experience or connections with editors and the industry or not.

Don’t go with any agent who charges a reading fee or sends you to a specific book doctor or editing company.

Check that the agent is a member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives). Members are required to adhere to their Canon of Ethics, which prohibits scammers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Picking an agent #6—Multiple submissions?

Many writers worry about sending queries or proposals to several agents at once.

First of all, if you received these submission requests at a conference, it’s understood that you might have multiple requests and therefore multiple submissions.

It’s also fine to send multiple queries to multiple agents, however you should check the agent’s website to see what his/her policy is on multiple submissions. Some agents discourage it. Some agents don’t care.

Whether you have multiple submission requests from an conference or you’re just sending multiple queries to agents, in your cover letter or query letter, let the agent know that your manuscript has been submitted to other agents. It’s a common professional courtesy. Do NOT skip this bit of communication.

If an agent requests a partial manuscript or a full manuscript, e-mail or write to the other agents you submitted to and let them know such-and-such agent has requested the partial (or full). It might garner more interest in your writing, it might not.

If an agent offers representation, but you’d also like to see if the other agents you submitted to are interested, then e-mail, write, or call them. Let them know you submitted to them, but you’ve been offered representation by another agent. Ask them if they would they be willing to look over your submission and give you an answer before you respond to the other agent. Be polite.

The main thing is, make sure you are clear and consistent in your communication with all the agents you submit to or query.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Picking an agent #5—How to know if they’re interested?

For some houses like Heartsong Presents and Steeple Hill, a writer doesn’t need an agent to sell to them. Some writers who have targeted those houses worry an agent is just taking them on for an easy sale.

As a writer, you can tell if an agent is truly interested in you and your writing. Did they read your manuscript? Offer suggestions or feedback? Do they plan which specific editors to send it to because they know the editors’ specific tastes? Do they communicate with you quickly and consistently? Is their communication thorough?

And for goodness’ sake, if an agent requests your proposal or your full manuscript, SEND IT! They don’t have time to request those things if they aren’t genuinely interested in your story idea. It’s not like they have nothing to do but log in manuscripts and then send a rejection letter. They have a lot of other things taking up their time, and they’re not going to waste any of it by asking you to send something they intend to reject later.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Picking an agent #4—location?

Some authors insist that agents reside in New York so they have more opportunities for face-to-face time with editors in New York. I can see the logic of that.

So what about if your agent lives in California? Or Colorado?

It depends on which publishers you are targeting.

Let me say that again: It depends on which publishers you are targeting.

Not all publishers are in New York. This is especially true for CBA publishers. If you are targeting Bethany House, they’re in Minnesota. If you’re targeting FaithWords, they’re in Tennessee. If you’re targeting Zondervan, they’re in Michigan.

My agent lives in California, which is terrific because I can meet with her every so often. She flies to visit publishing houses every year, and she has connections with all of them that she encourages by attending various conferences.

She is the primary reason Zondervan bought my chick-lit series, because of her connection with the Zondervan editor.

So . . . New York? In my opinion, not necessarily. However, it is up to you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Picking an agent #3—To brand or not to brand

I’m going to flash around the b-word, so if you’re easily offended, skip this post.

Some writers agree with branding, some don’t. Some writers like finding a marketing niche, others feel it hampers their creativity.

There’s nothing wrong with either opinion, but your agent should agree with whatever your opinion is.

Some agents are heavily into branding. They not only pitch your manuscript, they’re pitching your brand, you as the writer. They’re pitching you so that the house will take you on and develop you as an author with that particular flavor of writing.

Some agents are more open to writers who want to branch out into different areas. They encourage creativity, no matter where that may take the writer. They can recognize good writing and push whatever genre manuscripts their authors put out.

There is nothing wrong with either side. But you as the author should decide which type of agent you want to target. That’s why reading their online interviews or listening to workshops on CD or meeting them at conferences is so important.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Picking an agent #2—Do you like them?

This might seem like a dumb question, but think about it—here is your chance to choose who you get to work with. You want someone you get along with and who has the same work ethic as you do. You won’t necessarily be buddies, but you want to at least be happy to talk to them.

That’s why it’s good to research the agents you query. Read online interviews or buy CDs from conferences of workshops the agent gave, or agent panels the agent was on.

If you can afford it, go to conferences to meet them and talk to them. They don’t bite. Just get to know them, even if you don’t have anything to pitch to them.

You will get a good feel for who you’d like to work for, and which agent has the same types of goals you do in terms of career.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Picking an agent #1—FINISH THE MANUSCRIPT

Yes, I’m shouting.

Before I go into some tips on how to pick an agent (and possibly receive an offer of representation), I want to point out this very important part of the submission process.

For some people, this is a no-brainer, but I’m always amazed at people who’ve never heard this piece of advice.

Before you query that agent (or editor, for that matter), finish the manuscript. There are TONS of writers who never finish that first manuscript, and agents know this. Therefore, if they are interested in your story, they are going to want to see the full, completed manuscript.

For one, they want to know you finished it.

For two, they want to know if you can sustain your brilliance in the first chapter throughout the rest of the book. Many novels sag in the middle because the writer loses steam. If that’s the case with your manuscript, it’s not ready to submit. Period.

You want that manuscript ready to go if they come back with a manuscript request. You won’t want to make them wait for a few months.

Sometimes, the agent is interested in your particular idea because it’s hot in the marketplace right at that moment. If you wait, they might receive 20 other manuscripts of a similar idea and sell one of those instead. Or the market may be saturated. Or the market changes (which it always does).

Agents are also typically much faster than editors. They won’t often leave you hanging for months at a time.

Strike while the iron is hot. Make sure that puppy is primed and ready to submit.

Update: Julie Carobini pointed out that it is possible to acquire an agent with just a fiction proposal and not the entire manuscript, because, in her words, "time is money." She also had a strong freelance career at that point, too, which added to her credibility. In my opinion, it's not the norm to successfully query with an unfinished manuscript, but it certainly is possible.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Queries--If it's not relevant, cut it

This is a tip similar to writing synopses--if the sentence is not relevant, then get rid of it.

Each sentence, each nugget of information should pertain to:

--The main storyline. Typically, the story blurb doesn't take more than 1-3 paragraphs.

--The main protagonists. The villain only if he/she is a very major character.

--The characters' spiritual or emotional arcs, and the epiphany or realization at the end/climax. I'm not talking sentence after sentence. One sentence or phrase at the beginning about each character's emotional conflict, and (optional) one near the end about what he/she learns or realizes.

--The characters' external goals and the major obstacles against those goals. Notice I said major obstacles. Leave the minor stuff out. Again, just a sentence or phrase about the characters' external goals.

--An issue dealt with in the book. Say your heroine is an abuse victim. Then any information pertaining to that might be useful. However, don't go overboard and list too many statistics. Keep it simple and short.

--Why you as the author are qualified to write this story. If you've been an abuse victim or worked with abuse victims, then include that. Don't include your three dogs and your church if it has nothing to do with the story.

--Your writing credits. If you don't have many, don't point it out. If you have a lot, point only to the relevant ones. If you wrote an article on abuse in Woman's World and an article on stretching in Runner's World, include the Woman's World but not the Runner's World.

--Your writing groups. Again, don't list all of them if you have a lot.

--Closing thanks and polite nothings

Friday, September 15, 2006

Queries—basic structure

Not all query letters are set up this way, but here's a quick and dirty skeleton structure:

Date (I usually put September 13th, 2006 to make it look nicer)

For editors:
Name, title, house, address
or
For agents:
Name, agency, address

Greeting (make sure you address the person by name—for example, Dear Ms. Lawton)

First paragraph. Some people start with a hook, some people start with the info line. It's up to you, although I have heard of some editors/agents who detest the hook opener, so I usually play it safe and start with the info line.
I am excited to present my novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, a completed 45,000 word Inspirational Christmas romance set in San Jose, California.


Story blurb. Typically they're one to two paragraphs long, and they can be similar to back cover blurb.
Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins, so she throws herself into her wedding accessories shop in the mall. She’s becoming so savvy and self-sufficient, she hasn’t needed to bother God for any help in a while.

Three weeks before the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, her non-Christian brother makes a crazy deal—he’ll go to church with the family if she finds a date for the service. Risa can’t ask family friend Ben Higashi—the entire church knows rice would stop sticking before he’d be interested in her, so they’d assume she couldn’t find anyone else. Ben suggests the mall-sponsored Speed Dating, but when she uncovers a mall shoplifter mystery, can she discover both Mr. Right and the crook as her twelve dates turn into the Twelve Nightmares before Christmas?


Issues, hook, appeal. What makes this novel unique or different? Is the storyline high-concept? How would it appeal to readers? How would it be similar to but different from other books out there? If you're targeting a certain house, it would be a good idea to mention a book in their catalog for a comparative market analysis.
In the tradition of Linda Windsor’s Moonstruck series, The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a humorous romance with a splash of ethnic flavor—Amy Tan meets Bridget Jones. Stepping outside the structure of traditional inspirational romances, this story showcases the trials of a Japanese American woman fighting the foibles of her extended family and her insecurities as she tries to find romance and an identity outside of her work, something many young Christian women can relate to no matter what their ethnic background.


Your bio. What makes you qualified to write this story? Include publishing credits (and any awards), clubs, and/or experiences that are relevant to the story or your writing.
As a fourth generation Japanese American, I have close ties with the Asian American community in both Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area, where the story is set. I am a columnist for WordPraize multicultural e-zine, and I have had articles published in Nikkei Heritage, the journal for the National Japanese American Historical Society. I am a member of RWA, Faith, Hope and Love chapter, and American Christian Fiction Writers. The first chapter from another of my manuscripts won first place in its category in the 2005 ACFW Noble Theme contest.


Closing thanks and polite nothings. Keep it short. Also, either here or in the first paragraph, you can include any personal notes if you met the editor or agent at a conference, just to jog their memory.
I have included a one-page synopsis, and I would be happy to send a proposal and the first three chapters. It was a pleasure meeting you at the ACFW conference in Dallas last week. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Camy Tang

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Queries—story blurbs

In a query, your story blurb will either hook the editor or not. Here are some pointers.

1) Try to write it in the tone or voice of the novel. If your manuscript is a romantic comedy, make the blurb sound fun and flirty. If your novel is a dark thriller, make the blurb sound sinister and exciting.

2) It should name the main protagonists. The villain can also be named if he/she is a major protagonist.

3) The main protagonists' external goals should be clear.

4) There should be some hint of the major obstacle(s) in the protagonists' way.

5) A nice touch is to add a little info on the main protagonists' internal or spiritual conflicts.

6) Unlike a synopsis, you do not need to give away the ending, but you may if you prefer.

Example:

Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins, so she throws herself into her wedding accessories shop in the mall. She’s becoming so savvy and self-sufficient, she hasn’t needed to bother God for any help in a while.

Three weeks before the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, her non-Christian brother makes a crazy deal—he’ll go to church with the family if she finds a date for the service. Risa can’t ask family friend Ben Higashi—the entire church knows rice would stop sticking before he’d be interested in her, so they’d assume she couldn’t find anyone else. Ben suggests the mall-sponsored Speed Dating, but when she uncovers a mall shoplifter mystery, can she discover both Mr. Right and the crook as her twelve dates turn into the Twelve Nightmares before Christmas?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Query examples from Agent Kristin Nelson

Literary agent Kristin Nelson posted on her blog a few examples of query letters that caught her attention.

Shanna Swendson
Jennifer O’Connell
Becky Motew
Jana DeLeon
Lisa Shearin

Friday, September 08, 2006

Synopsis writing – spiritual arc/internal conflict

An editor will want to know how your character changes over the course of the book, so it’s important to include the character’s spiritual arc or arc of internal conflict.

It’s pretty simple. In the first paragraph or two, mention the character’s flaw, or spiritual struggle, or internal conflict.

Mary has given up on God and blames Him for her parents’ death.

Josh has always felt a need to control the people in his life, influencing their decisions. After all, it’s for their own good.

In the middle, show how the characters are coming to realize that their spiritual/internal state is wrong.

Mary is intrigued by Alice’s strong faith despite the horrible things that have happened to her. Mary rethinks her lost faith in the face of Alice’s unwavering trust in God and assertion that she has no business questioning what God has allowed.

Josh is shocked at his brother’s outburst, and wonders if it’s true that he’s trying to control his family like a set of tin soldiers.


In the climax, show how the character comes to an epiphany or realization about their spiritual/internal state. Show what they learn about themselves.

It should also be a strong inciting incident that brings them to this point—something powerful makes them turn their thoughts inward. It can’t be something small or insignificant. They can’t suddenly decide one day to do some introspection.

Mary cries at Alice’s graveside, holding her friend’s letter. Her heart crumbles before God as she realizes the larger picture God has of her world, and how He does indeed work everything for good for those who love Him.

Josh grabs the crumpled tricycle, realizing how his controlling ways have caused his family so much grief and pain. He realizes that if he does not change, he won’t have a family at all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Synopsis writing--voice

While a synopsis is usually not your best writing, and a synopsis is all telling and no showing, you should nevertheless try to make the synopsis sound like your writer's voice and the tone of the story.

If your story is poignant, try to make the synopsis sound that way. If your writer's voice is uniquely quirky and the story is, too, try to get that into the synopsis.

Risa Takayama has no social life because she's thrown all her energies into her wedding accessories shop in the mall. Unconventional, rebellious Risa hates the numerous family gatherings because her aunts tweak her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other.

vs.

Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins with their Ken sidekicks, so she throws herself into her wedding accessories shop in the mall, All the Trimmings. She’s becoming so savvy and self-sufficient, she hasn’t needed to bother God for any help in a while.

This usually adds words to a synopsis, and if you're trying to cut words, you might be tempted to cut out your voice. The choice is yours, but if you can, try to cut other words and keep your writer's voice. It will make the synopsis stand out and give a taste of what your story is like, the atmosphere of the novel.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tip#10 to trim a synopsis—eliminate extraneous nouns and verbs

There are some places where certain types of nouns and verbs can be eliminated entirely. Things like "He realizes", "She understands that," "He hears her say," "She sees him."

He follows her. He sees her enter the hotel.
vs.
He follows her. She enters the hotel.

He reads the family Bible. He discovers that Sally is his cousin.
vs.
He reads the family Bible. Sally is his cousin.

His reaction opens her eyes. She realizes she's always been in love with him.
vs.
His reaction opens her eyes. She's always been in love with him.

However, be aware that sometimes, these verbs can't be eliminated, so don't beat yourself up if you can't do it:

They fight. She realizes she's always been in love with him.
vs.
They fight. She's always been in love with him. (doesn't make sense)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tip#9 to trim a synopsis—change nouns and verbs

This is similar to tip #8. Sometimes you can substitute a different noun or verb that's a little shorter than what you have. Because the format is typically left justified, even one less letter in the sentence can be enough to eliminate a line (see tip #7 about getting rid of short lines).

He sneaks up to the house.
vs.
He creeps to the house.

He needs to stay out of her way.
vs.
He needs to avoid her.

She leaves her job.
vs.
She quits.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tip#8 to trim a synopsis—cut modifiers

Adjectives and adverbs are usually the easiest to cull from a synopsis. Sometimes you don't even need to change the noun or verb. Other times, a stronger noun or verb is needed.

She determines to win without interference from her meddling friends.
vs.
She determines to win without interference from her friends.

He is physically attracted to her.
vs.
He is attracted to her.
or
He lusts after her.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tip#7 to trim a synopsis—get rid of a short line

When you're down to only a few lines to go until your target page number, look for any paragraphs that end with a partial line, such as the example below:

Sports-crazy Lex Sakai isn’t too worried about
shouldering the unofficial family title “Oldest Single
Female Cousin” when her cousin Mariko marries in
a few months. Her control-freak grandma nags her
about her lack of man, but it’s easy to ignore—until
Grandma bellows at her in the middle of a
restaurant that Lex can’t get a guy because she
needs breast implants. Bristling at the challenge,
Lex insists there’s nothing wrong with
her—Grandma says to prove it. If Lex can’t find a
boyfriend by Mariko’s wedding in June, her ruthless
Grandma will cut off funding to the girls’ volleyball
team that Lex coaches. And pay for breast
implants. (14 lines)


Cut words here and there in the paragraph until that last line disappears.

Sports-crazy Lex Sakai isn’t worried about
shouldering the unofficial family title “Oldest Single
Female Cousin” when her cousin Mariko marries in
four months. Her control-freak grandma nags her
about her lack of man, but it’s easy to ignore—until
Grandma bellows in the middle of a restaurant that
Lex can’t get a guy because she needs breast
implants. Bristling at the challenge, Lex insists
there’s nothing wrong with her—Grandma says to
prove it. If Lex can’t find a boyfriend by Mariko’s
wedding, her ruthless Grandma will cut off funding
to the girls’ volleyball team that Lex coaches. And
pay for breast implants. (13 lines)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Are editors/agents even reading my synopsis?

Some editors and agents have admitted they don't read the synopsis when your proposal or manuscript hits their desk. So if that's the case, why even bother to invest so much time into it?

The truth is that some editors and agents do read your synopsis. And if it gets taken to editorial committee, it's likely that the VP of Sales or the VP of Marketing will read your synopsis, not your manuscript. They're looking at the marketability of the book.

The synopsis is important to let them know several things:

1) The characters are likable, with faults and flaws
2) The characters learn something on a spiritual level by the end of the book, with a solid spiritual takeaway for the reader.
3) There is definite rising tension and various obstacles in the middle of the book
4) There is an exciting climax where the reader roots for the character
5) There is a satisfying ending.
6) There is an issue or theme that would appeal to readers and which can be marketed, but which isn't preachy.
7) There is something unique and different about this book that would make it stand out from the other books in its genre on the shelves.

They also don't want a hugely long synopsis--they just don't have the time to read it. 1-2 pages, single-spaced, is a good range to aim for.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tip#6 to trim a synopsis—character names

Don’t mention a character by name unless they appear more than twice in the synopsis AND each appearance is vital to the plot. Mentioning too many names can be not only confusing, it can lengthen your synopsis. Refer to the minor character as “her neighbor” or “his old flame.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tip#5 to trim a synopsis—action

Don’t describe the characters’ every action unless that action directly influences the main plot:

She kicks the villain’s kneecap and runs outside. She tries to start the car, but it won’t turn over. The villain comes closer. Finally the car starts and she guns out of the driveway.

Versus

She escapes.

Be especially wary of verbosity in the ending of the synopsis:

He grabs her to force her to look at him. He tells her he loves her and can’t live without her. He’d held back while he thought she still loved his brother, but he’s done with the safe path. He can’t hold it in any longer and risks telling her how he feels. She tells him she loves him, too, and they share a passionate kiss. He asks her to marry him, and she answers yes. In the epilogue, they are married from his yacht before sailing off to Bermuda for their honeymoon.

Versus

They confess their love to each other and marry.

The editor or agent does not need a blow-by-blow version of your emotional or climactic scenes, because they are not expecting and don’t need to be emotionally moved by the synopsis. That’s what the manuscript is for.

They just need the facts about what happens. Try to rein in your tendency to “show,” and “tell” the bare actions instead.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tip#4 to trim a synopsis—relevance

Cut absolutely anything that does not have direct impact on the main storyline. Be ruthless.

Don’t leave things in because they pertain to a subplot.

Don’t go off for too long (more than a few sentences) on a red herring.

Don’t include character backstory that doesn’t absolutely need to be there in order to explain the main plot.

Don’t describe characters’ physical features unless it’s a vital element to the story (such as the hero mistakes a red-head for the heroine).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tip#3 to trim a synopsis—eliminate subplots

Cut out any mention of the subplot. Be ruthless. Even if the subplot gives a bit of depth to the hero because it tells the reader about his life as a drug runner in Brazil, if it doesn’t directly impact the main plotline of saving the heroine’s ranch, don’t include it.

Some subplots do influence the main plot near the end of the book. Here you have a couple choices:

1) Pare down the mention of the subplot to the absolute minimum needed for the ending to make sense. Maybe a sentence in the beginning of the synopsis, and then a sentence at the end when it impacts the main plot.

2) Eliminate mention of the subplot completely and insert something near the end to make the ending make sense.

Don’t do more than that for subplots if you can absolutely help it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tip#2 to trim a synopsis—repetition

Eliminate any repetition. If you mention something once—say the hero left the heroine five years ago—don’t mention it again. For example:

After a five year absence, Ronald McDonald returns to Birdy’s life . . .

A paragraph later:

A different man than he was five years ago, Ronald is still in love with Birdy . . .

Don’t mention the five years again. Cut it: Now more spiritually mature, Ronald is still in love with Birdy . . .

(Thanks to Dineen Miller for the idea of this example)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tip#1 to trim a synopsis—formatting

Check your formatting. Make sure all your margins are 1 inch. Make your header ½ inch from the top.

Make your header only one line with the manuscript title, the word “synopsis,” and your last name (e-mail address optional) on the left side, and then the page number (optional) on the right side. It’ll look something like this:

BRILLIANT NOVEL/Synopsis/Tang 1

You don’t have to put the word “Synopsis” at the top of the actual text. Just start the synopsis text.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Another quick tip for how to write a synopsis

Randy Ingermanson has a famous (or infamous) “Snowflake” method of plotting that I use to write synopses.

Now don’t have a coronary. It’s actually very easy, and I only use a couple of the 10 steps in the Snowflake method.

I do step two (but read step one to know what he’s talking about), then step four. That’s it. I end up with a one or two page synopsis.

For a longer synopsis, I do step six, which gives me a synopsis anywhere from 4-11 pages.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Articles?

Sometimes people insist that fiction writers should start by writing non-fiction articles first. Some have even insisted they build up their article repertoire before starting on their novel.

I don’t agree. Fiction is a different fish.

Don’t get me wrong, article-writing is good, especially to collect clips and build your writer’s resume. But articles should directly pertain to your brand, genre, or the theme or issue in your novel. That way the clips have weight and meaning when you include them in your bio in a query letter.

If your novel is a deep women’s fiction piece on alcoholism, and you have clips of articles you’ve written on alcoholism in e-zines or print magazines, an editor will feel you’re qualified to write that novel.

If you only have articles on fly-fishing or parenting toddlers, the editor will wonder what that has to do with your novel.

And don’t delay on starting that novel! If you do, it might never happen.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Quick tip for how to write a synopsis

This is a really quick, easy way to write your synopsis. This is especially easy if you only need to write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, which calls for only a few sentences for each chapter.

Go through your manuscript and write one sentence for each scene. If the scene is long, write a couple sentences.

Any significant spiritual or internal conflicts should be included, as well as major plot points, red herrings, symbolism, etc.

That’s it. Go through your entire manuscript. This should give you a synopsis of about 6-10 pages single-spaced.

From here, you cut your synopsis down to whatever length it needs to be.

What’s a chapter-by-chapter synopsis?

Some editors or agents ask for a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. Not all of them do, so don’t automatically assume you need one.

However, it’s the easiest type of synopsis to write, in my opinion. It’s simply a list of each chapter number, and then a couple sentences describing what happens in the chapter.

Any significant spiritual or internal conflicts should be included, as well as major plot points, red herrings, symbolism, etc. The chapter-by-chapter synopsis will take the reader on a shortened version of the same ride you’ll give your novel reader, so include the dead ends and frustrations and obstacles that beset your characters.

Each major character should be named, and minor characters can also be named if they have a significant impact on the storyline. However, peripheral characters shouldn’t be named in a chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

I usually write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis first, then cut that down to a 1-2 page synopsis which I use for my proposals. Most proposals call for a short synopsis, 1-3 pages single-spaced.

I will sometimes include the chapter-by-chapter synopsis in my proposal in addition to the 1-2 page synopsis. I’ll usually stick the chapter-by-chapter synopsis at the end of the proposal, so that the editor/agent doesn’t have to read it if they don’t care to.

At the beginning of a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, you can also give your short 1-2 sentences blurb about the book.

Here’s an example from my suspense manuscript (unpublished):

Chapter-by-chapter synopsis BITTER DRAGON


Erika, trained in Chinese martial arts, inherits a huge sum of money that her late aunt had promised to a shady biotech company. But can she expose the illegal cloning operation before they kill her?

Chapter One

Physical Therapist Erika Fong is driven to a bruising kickboxing bout when she feels relief rather than guilt at the news her hated Aunt Alice is dead. Arriving late for the funeral, she feels uncomfortable in the gold-encrusted Buddhist sanctuary, not because she is a Christian but because of the numerous symbols of death. At the funeral reception, she spies a handsome man she’s never seen before. Then her aunt’s lawyer floors her with the news that Alice left her one hundred million dollars.

Chapter Two

Erika experiences shock-induced abdomen cramps and avoids questions from her sisters: police officer Lena with her tendency to “clean up” after everyone, and biologist Miriya, at odds with Erika over embryonic stem cell research. Erika struggles over the issue when faced with their uncle, suffering from Alzheimer’s. Erika discovers that her aunt’s business papers and an heirloom Bible are missing. Then she finds evidence in the bedroom that Alice was murdered.

Camy here: The nice thing about a chapter-by-chapter synopsis is that you can still include snippets of your writer’s voice in certain phrases or word choices or sentence rhythms.

Cutting down a chapter-by-chapter synopsis is relatively easy if you can dissociate yourself from your story enough. Click here for my article on tips to trim your synopsis to 1-2 pages.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pitching to agents and editors at conferences

I'm not a natural extrovert, but I force myself to be one at conferences in order to meet writers, editors and agents. I want to present a professional demeanor and make a good impression.

That's kind of hard to do when my mouth has suddenly become the Mojave desert and my legs have rooted through my Nine Wests into the floor.

These are tips for when you’re at a group meet-and-greet, or standing in the hallway, or waiting in line—any informal setting when you spot an editor/agent you’d like to talk to.

Smile

Go on, force your mouth to stretch out and up. From my psychology classes, I know that just the action will make you feel better and help you relax.

Buddy up

There's nothing wrong with asking a friend to walk with you as you approach Agent X. Agents and editors are not monsters, nor do they bite. Many of them are not extroverts, either. They understand the nervousness of meeting someone new, especially if it's someone you WANT to meet. Your buddy doesn't have to do much more than stand there and smile. If the agent or editor asks, they can mention they're there for "moral support" and most people will understand.

Keep it simple

"Hi, my name is Betty Bestseller. Do you have a moment? Could I tell you about my book?"
Until you become more comfortable meeting editors and agents, you don't need to try to go with the very professional-sounding rehearsed speech you agonized over in front of the mirror. Be polite and to the point.

Use props

One-sheets are tastefully laid-out single pages with short 30-second blurbs (that usually translates into two paragraphs) about your work(s) in progress. They also tend to have a digital headshot and a one-paragraph bio of you. Not all agents and editors will accept them--they have different views about taking home anything more than business cards from writers--but you can use one to pitch your WIP. Agents and editors don't mind if you read off your one-sheet. They'd prefer that over you stuttering, backtracking, and confusing them with a memorized blurb.

If you'd like an example of a one-sheet:
http://dineenmiller.com/DineenMiller/D.G.Graphics.html (Dineen’s having hosting problems so her website might take some time to load. She used to work in corporate as a professional graphic designer, and now she designs writers’ one-sheets for very reasonable prices—like 1/10 what she’d charge in corporate. Her design work is fabulously striking and has garnered editor and agent attention at conferences.)
http://www.marydavisbooks.com/onesheet.php
http://www.ambermiller.com/promosheet.html

Be polite

When you finish and ask, "Is this something that might interest you?", if they say "No," then for heaven's sake don't sprinkle onto the floor like a crumbled scone or throw a hissy fit. Smile, say, "Thank you for your time," and leave it at that.

On the flip side, if they say, "Yes, please send me your proposal," don't let loose your prize-winning hog-call from the last county fair. Smile, say, "Thank you for your time!" and hand them your business card. They will probably hand you theirs.

Debrief

Right after you walk away from the editor/agent, write the title of your WIP (if you have more than one) on the back of their card so you know what you pitched, and any other pertinent information the agent/editor might have given so you don't forget.

On a side note, don't lose that card. It's extremely unprofessional to be asking on writers loops, "Does anyone have So-n-so's information? I lost their business card..."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

First person or third?

Synopses are traditionally in third person, but these days, there are a few in first person. It’s a matter of risk. Some editors or agents would be intrigued by a well-written synopsis in first person. Others would be turned off by it, and there’s no way of knowing what type of person will read your proposal.

I personally believe in the safer route and would suggest that unpublished writers write their synopses in third person. However, there are success stories of some writers who landed a book contract with a synopsis in first person, so it’s not unheard of.

The choice—and the risk—is yours as the writer. In this, get the opinions of your friends and other experienced and published writers. Have them look at your synopses to tell you which is better written, catchier, tighter. Ultimately, however, you will have to decide if you’d like to risk a first person synopsis or not.

The Story Sensei - raising prices

Have your novel critiqued in August! Prices for the Story Sensei will increase as of September 1st. All you fabulous writers have until then if you’d like to have your manuscript critiqued at the old prices.

Go here for more information on my services.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Novel Manuscript Format for CBA Publishers

Novel Manuscript Format for CBA Publishers

Things are a bit different between Christian publishers and mainstream publishers, so this article will mostly address the fiction guidelines of the major CBA publishers and agents. (Non-fiction guidelines may differ.)

The following instructions for changing the formatting of your electronic document is for Microsoft Word versions older than 2007. I'm not familiar with Word Perfect or Word 2007, unfortunately, so in order to change your settings to the formatting mentioned below, you will need to do a website search for instructions (for example, you can Google “How to set margins in Word 2007”). Most publishing houses use Microsoft Word, whether the older versions or 2007.

Printer: Use a good printer. Avoid dot-matrix printers entirely. If you do not own a printer, your pages can be printed out at your local print shop or office supply store for a modest price if you bring your document to them on a disk or CD.

Paper: Should be good quality, 20 lb., white or extra-bright, 8.5" x 11". While some people say that heavier, better quality paper is better, a few editors have mentioned that heavier than 20 lb. paper is often too heavy for them to take home to read, so a safe way to go would be straight 20 lb. paper.

Single-sided: Only print or type on one side of the paper.

Margins: Text should have 1 inch to 1-1/2 inch margins on all sides of all pages. Header (see below) can be 1/2 inch or 1 inch from the top of the page, but the text itself should be at least 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches from the top of the page.

To set margins:
Click on "File" at the top, then "Page Setup." A window will pop up.
Click on the "Margins" tab at the top of the window.
Under "Margins" is "Top," "Bottom," "Left," and "Right." In the boxes next to each, change the setting to 1. Optional: the "Top" margin can be 1.5 instead of 1.
Click "OK."

Font: Courier is traditional and still acceptable, but many people (including editors and agents) find a modern font with a serif, like Times New Roman, to be easier to read on paper. (On the web, a sans serif font like Helvetica or Ariel is easier to read on monitors, which doesn't have the same type of resolution as paper.)

Contests will sometimes require one font over the other (sometimes for the purposes of limiting entry length), so read all contest instructions and follow them accordingly.

For Courier, size should be 12 point. For Times New Roman, size should be 12 or 14 point. 12 point is more common. For any other font, size it to be approximately the same as either Courier 12pt or Times New Roman 12pt.

For submissions, an editor or agent will usually not automatically reject your manuscript if you put it in Times New Roman when they prefer Courier, or vice versa. However, they might be annoyed if the font is smaller than 12pt.

Double-spacing (or 25 lines per page): The manuscript should be double-spaced or set to 25 lines per page (this is traditional but not mandatory if the publisher uses computer word count). Do not manually put carriage returns between lines like a typewriter--this can cause formatting problems if text is revised or margins changed. Do not put an extra carriage return between paragraphs.

Highlight the entire manuscript (Edit/Select All or Control-A).
Click "Format" at the top, then "Paragraph." A window will pop up.
Click on the "Indents and Spacing" tab at the top (usually the first tab that shows up in the window)
In the middle of the window on the right side is "Line spacing:" and under that is a drop-down box.
If double-spacing the manuscript, click on "Double."
If formatting to 25 lines per page, click on "Exactly." The field to the right of "Line spacing:" is "At:" with a drop-box. Click in the box and type "25."
Click "OK."

Left side justification (ragged right edges): Make sure justification is on the left and not centered or justified.

Click "Format" at the top, then "Paragraph." A window will pop up.
Click on the "Indents and Spacing" tab at the top (usually the first tab that shows up in the window)
At the top of the window on the left side is "Alignment:" and to the right of that is a drop-down box.
Select "Left."
Click "OK."

Indentation: Use the tab to indent the first line of the paragraph 0.5", not 0.3" (which is standard in some word processing programs) or 5 spaces, especially if you use a proportional font like Times New Roman.

Click "Format" at the top, then "Paragraph." A window will pop up.
Click on the "Indents and Spacing" tab at the top (usually the first tab that shows up in the window)
The second section from the top of the window on the left side is "Indentation" and to the right of that is “Special” and a drop-down box.
Select "First Line."
To the right is “By:” and make sure it is set at 0.5.
Click "OK."

Hyphenation: Turn off. (optional)

Select the entire document (control A).
Click "Format" at the top, then "Paragraph." A window will pop up.
Click the "Line and Page Breaks" tab at the top of the window.
Select the "Don't hyphenate" check box.
Click "OK."

Widows/Orphans control OFF: (optional) A "widow" is the last line of a paragraph printed by itself at the top of a page. An "orphan" is the first line of a paragraph printed by itself at the bottom of a page.

When Widows/Orphan Control is ON, then Microsoft Word will eliminate widows and orphans in order to keep paragraphs together. So you won't have that single line from a paragraph at the top of a page (widow) or that first line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page (orphan).

However, this varies the number of lines per page, which can be misleading to someone reading the manuscript because a page with one or two less lines looks like a section break or the end of a chapter when it is not. It's usually better to turn the Widows/Orphan Control OFF. Then each page will have the same number of lines.

However, you have to make sure the entire document is selected (Edit/Select All) before you change Widow/Orphan Control for it to affect the entire document. Kind of like fonts--you need to select the entire document to change the font.

In your manuscript, go to Edit (at the top) and click Select All (or press Control A)
Click on "Format" (at the top), and click on "Paragraph." A window will pop up.
Click on "Line and Page Breaks" tab near the top of the window.
Make sure "Widow/Orphan Control," "Keep with next," and "Keep Lines Together" boxes are UNCHECKED.
Click OK. The bottom margin should be 1 inch after that, or close enough.

Header (no footer): Most headers are only one line, since a book title, your last name, and the page number can usually fit all on one line.

There are several ways to format a header, but the most common is:
Left side: TITLE OF THE MANUSCRIPT IN CAPS/Last name
Right side: page # or just the #

You can have Last name/TITLE instead on the left side.

You can also have TITLE/Last name/e-mail@address on the left side. Some publishers appreciate it when each page has your contact information.

Set the header margin:
Click on "File" at the top, then "Page Setup." A window will pop up.
Click on the "Layout" tab at the top of the window.
Under "Headers and Footers" near the middle of the window is "Header" and "Footer."
In the boxes next to "Header," change the setting to 0.5 if your top margin is 1, or change the setting to 1 if your top margin is 1.5.
Click "OK."

To insert the header:
Click "View" at the top, then click "Header and Footer." The header box will appear.
Type in the header.

If the header text isn't left justified, highlight the header text.
Click on "Format" at the top, then "Paragraph."
Select the "Indents and Spacing" tab near the top.
Under "Alignment" (near the top) set the box for "left."
Click "OK."

To insert page numbers, click on "Insert" at the top, then "Page Numbers." A box will pop up.
Under "Alignment" make sure it says "right."
Make sure the box that says "Show number on first page" is checked.
Click "OK."

To exit the Header/Footer view, click "close."

Typically, fiction manuscripts do not have footers.

Numbering: Number pages consecutively. The title page (see below) should NOT have a header or page number, but you should start numbering your manuscript (and include the other things in the header) from the FIRST page of text (prologue or chapter one). This is different from traditional formatting taught in high school and college, where they instruct writers to not number page one and start numbering on page two. Since manuscripts are not bound, if several fall from a table, there is no way to know the manuscript's title if there is no information about the manuscript on that first page of the prologue or chapter one. Therefore, your very first page (prologue or chapter one) should have your header (manuscript title, your name, page 1).

Title page: Most novel manuscripts have a Title Page that includes the title, estimated word count (see below), your name and contact information or your agent’s name and contact information (the book FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT says not to put both your information and your agent's information, probably so that the editor isn't confused about who to contact).

The title page is single-spaced with 1” margins all around. It does NOT have a header or page number.

Word count should be in the top right corner of the page. You can also include the novel's genre and/or sub-genre, such as "Inspirational Contemporary Romance" or "Inspirational chick-lit mystery."

Your information (name (not pseudonym), address, telephone number, e-mail address, website (if you have one)) goes in the top left corner.

In the center of the page with center-justification, type your novel's title in boldface all caps (no quotation marks). Skip one line, then type "by." Skip another line, then type your name OR your pseudonym if using one.

Agent information (name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, website) goes in the bottom right corner.

For a contest, the title page will probably not need your pseudonym (use your name instead) or agent information. However, author info, novel genre or category, word count, and title is usually needed. Follow contest instructions exactly if they say to include word count or not, genre or not.

There is a sample title page here in .pdf format.

Important note: Because the title page does not have a header or page number but the manuscript has both, I would suggest that you either have a Section Break between your title page and your manuscript, or an easier way is to have your title page in a different Word document file entirely. This makes it easier to insert the header and page numbers to the manuscript pages.

Word count: Traditionally, and still in effect for several mainstream publishers, word count was approximated by assuming 250 words per printed page of Courier font, 12 point, with one inch margins and 25 lines per page. This would take into account not just words but also white space, which still takes up printing paper.

Nowadays, CBA publishers and agents use the computer word count. However, some mainstream publishers still use the 250-word-per-page approximation.

When stating word count, average to the nearest thousand.

Chapters: Indicate new chapters by typing Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. You can also have them in ALL CAPS: CHAPTER ONE, CHAPTER TWO, etc.

Start each new chapter on a new page--insert a page break after the last sentence of the previous chapter. Do not continue a chapter on the same page as where the last chapter ended.

To insert a page break in Microsoft Word, click the page so that the cursor is after the last sentence of the previous chapter. Then go to "Insert" at the top, and click on "Break." A box will pop up. Click the button next to "Page Break" and click "OK."

On the new page, drop about one-third (6 double-spaced lines) or halfway (12 double-spaced lines) down the page before typing Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. This is the only time you will need to add extra blank lines.

Spaces after a period: The latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style instructs writers to put only one space after the period instead of two, and most CBA publishers refer to the CMS for their in-house standards.

If you have two spaces in your manuscript, they are easy to replace. Click on "Edit" at the top, then "Replace" (or simply type Control-H). For "Find what:" put two spaces. For "Replace with:" put one space. Hit "Replace All."

Italics, bold, underlining, ALL CAPS: Italics for words being emphasized is the new standard according to the Chicago Manual of Style, but underlining is still acceptable if you are consistent. Do not use both italics and underlining--just use one or the other. Most editors and agents frown on using boldface or ALL CAPS when a word is being emphasized.

Scene breaks: Use one pound sign (#) or three pound signs (###) centered on a line to indicate a scene or section break. Do not insert extra blank lines (paragraph breaks or carriage returns) above or below the pound signs. Another option is to have a blank line instead of a line with pound signs, but the pound signs more clearly indicate the scene break.

Copyright: Don't put copyright information on your novel--it might make you look like an amateur. Everything you write is copyrighted as soon as it's on paper or in your computer.
Copyright basics:
http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Binding: Do not staple or punch holes in your manuscript--use extra-large clips or rubber bands to bind it. You can separate sections with a single sheet of colored paper.

There is a sample title page here in .pdf format.

There are sample manuscript pages here in .pdf format that show header, page numbers, prologue, chapter, and a scene break.

If you have any questions about this article, just e-mail me: camy [ at ] camytang.com

This article is compiled from other online articles, interviews with published authors from various houses, and also from the book FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT (2nd edition) by Cynthia Laufenberg (Writer's Digest Books). If you've heard something drastically different from the info in this article, then definitely please e-mail me.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Winners of the Story Sensei Summer Sale!

Drumroll, please . . .

BookWritingBlog
and
Caroleah

Congratulations!

Each winner received:

One free synopsis critique (up to 10 single-spaced pages)
AND
A coupon for 25% off any service (synopsis, query letter, or manuscript critique, full or partial manuscript)

Mucho thanks to everyone who entered! If you entered but you haven’t yet gotten your 10% off coupon, please e-mail me at camy [at] camytang.com.

All 10% off coupons are good toward any service, and they expire on December 31st, 2006.

I'll be holding another contest/sale in December or January, so stay tuned!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Story Sensei Summer Sale!

A writers’ summer event!

From now until July 15th, I will be holding a fabulous contest for my Story Sensei critique service.

I will draw the names of TWO lucky winners! They will each receive:

A free synopsis critique – up to 10 pages single-spaced, a $40 value!

AND

A coupon for 25% OFF any manuscript critique – whether full or partial manuscript, any number of words. For a 100,000 word manuscript, that’s a savings of $250!

In addition, EVERYONE WHO ENTERS will receive a 10% OFF coupon for any service, whether synopsis, query letter, or manuscript critique (full or partial). For a 100,000 word manuscript, that’s a savings of $100, just for entering.

Just post a comment on this Story Sensei blog to enter!


Make sure you leave some way for me to contact you—whether e-mail, website address, or blog address. If leaving an e-mail, please use this format:
you [at] youremail.com

International writers are welcome to enter, but must either use electronic submissions or pay for postage both ways.

Hurry! Contest ends July 15th! (at 11:59 p.m. for those of you who were wondering)

Prizes:

For everyone who enters: One coupon for 10% off any critique service will be e-mailed to each person who enters. Each person may only enter once. Only one 10% off coupon per person. Coupon expires December 31st, 2006. Coupons ARE transferable, but please do not transfer one coupon to multiple people. Also, you must e-mail me with the name and e-mail address of the person you’re giving the coupon to. Once you transfer a coupon to someone else, you cannot use it yourself. Coupons cannot be combined.

For the two grand prize winners: Coupons for one free synopsis critique and 25% off any one manuscript critique will be e-mailed to the winner. Coupons expire on March 31st, 2007. Grand prize winners may also keep (and redeem) their 10% off coupon that they received for entering the contest. Coupons (free synopsis critique, 10% off and 25% off) ARE transferable, but please do not transfer one coupon to multiple people. Also, you must e-mail me with the name and e-mail address of the person you’re giving the coupon to. Once you transfer a coupon to someone else, you cannot use it yourself. Coupons cannot be combined.

Regular Story Sensei prices (before discount):

Synopsis critique: up to 10 single-spaced pages, $40.

Manuscript critique: $1 per 100 words.

Query letter critique: $10. For a manuscript critique of 10,000 words or more, query letter critique is free.

See here for more information on the Story Sensei critique service.

See here for what clients are saying about the Story Sensei critique service.

If you come up with any other questions about the contest, just e-mail me: camy [at] camytang.com
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