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Showing posts from January, 2009

The first page, part 2 - Figure out where to start your story

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page.
Click here for part one.

Figure out where to start your story

You don’t need cars blowing up or gunfights or a grotesque witch dying a horrible death to open your story (although if you do have those things, that’s a good thing, too).

All you need is something different.

You need something unusual happening that will perk your reader’s attention.

You need something disrupting the character’s normal life.

You need just the intimation of some type of change or upheaval.

This means you don’t start with backstory or telling or explanations about who the character is and why they’re there and what has happened to him before this scene.

You start with the action spurred on by Change in the character’s life.

I’ve seen too many manuscripts that started in the wrong place. The character’s “ordinary world” is introduced, but it’s not an active, engaging opening for the story.

You need to start with the change to the character’s ordina…

Mount Hermon HeadStart Mentoring Clinic

I'm a mentor for the Mount Hermon HeadStart mentoring clinic this year! The HeadStart clinic is a couple days before Mount Hermon Writers Conference, April 1-3, 2009.

HeadStart is mostly for beginning writers (intermediate writers can take the regular Mentoring Clinic given during Mount Hermon Writer's Conference).

I hope that those of you who can will come and take my mentoring class!

Mary DeMuth, who's also a mentor for HeadStart, made this really cute video that gives a little more info about who the HeadStart clinic is for and what you can get out of it.

The first page, part 1 - Craft a great opening line

I’m going to be doing a series on things to look for in your first page.

Why just the first page?

Realistically, that first page is all you have. That’s what will either grab an editor or make him/her put the manuscript in the reject pile.

Editors have very little time, and they get thousands of manuscripts a year. If they’re not hooked by that first page, most will not bother to read on to the second page.

Editors just don’t have time anymore to “grow” an author and help them improve his/her writing. In past decades in publishing, an editor might contract an author with incredible potential and help them to become a better writer with successive books.

That doesn’t happen anymore. A debut author that’s contracted these days has to have very strong writing skills right off the bat—an editor will not contract a writer who’s “good but not quite there.”

It’s the same with a reader. Think of yourself in a bookstore. There are thousands of books on the shelves. How do you decide which book to sp…

Setting writing goals for 2009

I'm over at Seekerville talking about how writers can set goals for 2009 to challenge themselves to write faster and/or more efficiently.

Camy here, talking about Writing Goals for 2009!

Pam Hillman recently shared her writing goals with us, and I was totally impressed how she broke things down into quarters.

What that mostly did was to help her target herself in terms of writing efficiency. She challenged herself to write a certain amount—or at a certain speed—by a certain date.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Credentials in Query Letters For Novels An Example From Real Life

Here is an example from my own query letter, written for one of my old Asian chick lit novels when I was still unpublished. This was originally published on Suite101.

An Example From Real Life

Here is a bio paragraph from a real query letter from an author who was unpublished at the time.

The credential or bio section of a query letter is important because it lists why the writer is qualified to write the novel being proposed in the query. It also shows the agent or editor the writer’s experience in the publishing industry and in the writing craft.

The best way to learn is by example, so here is an example bio paragraphs from a real query letter from the author, who was unpublished at the time she sent this query. There are also comments about each section of the bio paragraph at the end of the example.

Example One

Here is an example from a query letter this author submitted when still unpublished. The novel was an Asian American chick lit novel.

This novel explores the fast pace and u…

Query Letters - Listing Credentials: Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative

I just critiqued a query letter and answered a few questions about the credentials paragraph. So I wrote this article, which originally was published on Suite 101.

Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative

Here are a few tips to make the bio section of a query letter as good as it can be.

An important part of query letters is the credential or bio paragraph. It should do two things:

1) Let the editor or agent know why you are qualified to write the novel and its topics

2) Let the editor or agent know that you have publishing credits and writing connections to show you’re not inexperienced in the publishing industry.

Show You Are Qualified

A writer should show that they are qualified to write a novel’s settings, issues, themes, or character professions.

If the novel is about firefighters, a bio should mention the writer is the son of a firefighter or married to one, or is a firefighter himself.

If the novel is set in the Michigan upper peninsula, the writer should mention his/her connecti…

A Writing Career on a Budget

We're all feeling the financial crunch, but what's an unpublished writer to do when there are so many things you need to buy to develop your craft? I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101.

A Writing Career on a Budget

Money-Saving Tips for Novelists

Here are tips for developing writing skills, improving craft, and taking advantage of resources inexpensively.

An unpublished novelist is stuck in a catch-22. He can’t make money until he sells a novel, but he can’t sell a novel until he develops his craft, which usually requires money.

Here are some tips for developing your writing craft while limited by a budget.

Take Advantage of Free Stuff

These days, there are tons of writing articles online that teach the basics of writing. Google is your best friend.

There are many websites that have lists of links to free articles. One of my favorites is Resources for Romance Writers. While many of the articles do pertain to romance, much of the information is applicable …

Books and Such Literary Agency blog

I am agented by Books and Such, and they've just started a blog!

http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/

They'll be posting 5 days a week, and they'll also have a Newsflash feature where they'll be posting every new and juicy tidbit from the world of publishing.

How to write a great query letter by Noah Lukeman

Noah Lukeman now has his article, "How to write a great query letter" available as a free download! Way cool!

How to write a great query letter

Increase Character Conflict

Feedback can sometimes be vague, can't it? I wrote an article that might help you improve your story when the feedback is not so helpful. This article originally appeared on Suite101.

Increase Character Conflict

Make Characters and the Story More Interesting By Increasing Conflict

Here are some tips for making a bland or episodic story more interesting by introducing deep character conflicts.

Sometimes, a writer will get feedback that the characters are unlikable or uninteresting, or the story is only “okay.” This is usually a good indication that the story needs more conflict.

For popular fiction, the best type of conflict involves personal character conflict. Some writers refer to this as “throwing rocks” at your character.

This type of internal conflict can also directly impact the external storyline, so you get maximum bang for your writing buck.

Conflict will automatically create more interest for readers because they want to see how the protagonist responds under pressure—gi…

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville (www.seekerville.blogspot.com)

Monday Jan 5: Deb Ng on professional blogging. Deborah Ng is the
genius behind Freelance Writing Jobs.

Tuesday Jan 6: Cindi Myers on the working writer. If you don't know
Cindi, check out her Market News Yahoo Group or her website for news
on her latest release A Man To Rely On, from Super Romance.

Wednesday Jan 7: Michael Bracken on writing for the Confessions.
Michael is a phenom in the confession world and we are thrilled to
have him stop by and share.

Thursday Jan 8: Abingdon Press Senior Acquisitions Editor for
Fiction, Barbara Scott, is back for an Encore, Encore!!

Friday Jan 9: Myra L. Johnson on the Christian nonfiction market. In
addition to her multiple fiction sales in 2008 (Heartsong and
Abingdon), Myra is also a nonfiction writer.

Saturday Jan 10: Tina Russo shares on writing romantic fiction for
Woman's World Magazine. Keep an eye out for her latest Woman's World
story, Letting Go, which is on newsstands R…

Building a blog

This article originally appeared as a series of blog posts in November and December 2008. Here are all the posts collected together.

Building a blog

These days, blogging is a great way to express yourself and/or to market a product you might have. Blogging is cheap, easy, and can be a lot of fun.

But while anyone can blog, how do you create an effective blog? Here are a few tips, broken down into Blogging Logistics and Blog Content.

(Before I begin, I also want to mention that blogging isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes to blog, and that’s perfectly fine. I think that no one should feel forced to blog—if you don’t like blogging, then don’t blog. But if you do enjoy blogging, this is a series of articles to help you make a better blog.)

Blogging Logistics:

Blog consistently.

Good blogs have bloggers who post consistently and often. Most of these bloggers post five days a week, taking Saturday and Sunday off since blogs usually have lower traffic on weekends.

Ideally, a blogger who wants to…