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Posts Tagged ‘literary agents’

  1. Oh, god, it’s time to write a query again?

    January 12, 2013 by Kiersi

    Yep, it’s that time again–a new manuscript, a new query.

    For me, writing a query is a long, long process; one that usually begins while the manuscript I’m querying is still in the early stages (first or second draft). There are a couple reasons for this:

    1. Writing a query requires fundamentally understanding the story you’re trying to tell. When I say “query,” I’m meaning the whole shebang: the hook, the pitch, the short bio, the ass-kissing. And none of these things are possible to do well if you’re not absolutely sure of the story, the characters, and the stakes.

    And it’s not just understanding the structure of these things, or what they look like, or writing them in pretty sentences–it’s also understanding their appeal. (more…)

  2. How to Revise Your Novel – Pt. 3

    October 16, 2012 by Kiersi

    Part 3: The Nitty-Gritties of Book Editing

    Urban Textures at Dawn by Steve A Johnson

    Urban Textures at Dawn by Steve A Johnson (Flickr)

    Yesterday’s post was about spicing up your manuscript to be more engaging. Today’s post is about discovering your goals and fine-tuning your manuscript to achieve those goals (no more, no less). This is about using structure and science to streamline your story; to get that final polish agents and editors want to see.

    1. Goal-finding.

    Every scene you write should accomplish something specific in your story. Let me repeat that in different words: Have clear story goals for every single scene in your manuscript.

    First drafts are full of stuff that doesn’t fit this criteria. HEY SHE HAS A COOL BATHROOM LETS SHOW HER IN IT. A LOT. And you know what? That is okay. That’s more than okay. That’s great. That’s how first drafts are.

    But once you reach the revision stage–the second, third, fourth drafts–you want to narrow the focus. Go into each chapter and each scene with a clear goal in mind. Know the starting point (e.g., Sophie and Leon are fighting about something) and an ending point (Sophie and Leon make up and decide on a mutual course of action). Let your characters’ emotions guide you. We want to see change. (more…)

  3. Query Hell: The Fastest Way to Madness

    August 29, 2012 by Kiersi

    photo by fmgbain

    Each new query letter I write is like learning to ride a bike all over again, with the accompanying falling, scraping, and toddler-esque shrieks of frustration. I don’t think it will ever matter how many times I write a mini-synopsis–each manuscript has its own set of challenges to be overcome in breaking down a book-length plot into a short pitch.

    Finding inspiration in book blurbs and dust jackets.

    The first problem I’ve had writing my query letter for The Aeronauts is that the novel takes place across multiple settings. Parallel worlds, really, if we’re going to get technical. It means I have to introduce not one, but two environments within a single mini-synopsis. And while one world (Earth) doesn’t feature prominently in the story, it is the protagonist’s home and the backdrop to her character, so it requires a little airtime in the query letter. (more…)

  4. WWC12 Wrap-up

    August 14, 2012 by Kiersi

    Willamette Writers Conference 2012 - Portland

    This year’s Willamette Writers Conference 2012 was a startling success. I pitched to four agents and one publisher, and received from all of them requests for more. I attended sessions all three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and did my best to stay sane and conscious enough to socialize.

    Part A: The Program

    I wish I could Vulcan mind-meld with you, if only so you could have experienced with me Eric Witchey‘s stellar, re-orienting talk on Story Fluency: Story as a Second Language.” It’s not my place to divulge all of the secrets that Eric, in turn, divulged to us–but I can tell you that my most basic understanding of the structure and arc of story is fundamentally changed. It goes a bit like this: (more…)

  5. Self-editing is Not Editing

    July 12, 2012 by Kiersi

    A Treatise on Not Getting Yourself Down, and How To Be a Professional

    I am hyper-critical of my work–as in, critical to the point that I actually burst into tears during a revision of Fire & Brimstone. Not even joking. First came the tears, then the heart-wrenching sobs, then the boyfriend going slack-jawed as I began to thrash and scream. Okay. Well, I’m more emotional than some.

    But rewriting can be hard. Editing your own work is, by its very nature, an emotional experience. (I’m looking at you, @RebeccaTomorrow.)  Especially if you are editing a work you first wrote (a) 6 months ago, (b) one year ago, or (c) so long ago it doesn’t even matter anymore. Pretty much everything past (a), if you write regularly, will look like a third grader went at it with a crayon and some slobber. Trust me. I’m there with you. My threshold is about four months now–the beginning of The Aeronauts, which I started back in February, reads like some mutant crossbreed of a high school English essay and Tolkien.

    But there are things you can do to lessen the impact: and that is to realize that self-editing is not editing. (more…)

  6. Productive Stall

    July 2, 2012 by Kiersi

    Paper Towns (blue) book cover

    Work on the last stretch of The Aeronauts has stalled in the wake of bachelorette parties, book club (John Green’s Paper Towns), applying for a fellowship with Literary Arts, and chomping through Beth Revis’s debut YA sci-fi novel, Across the Universe. Maybe I’ll review it and its sequel, A Million Suns, when I’m finished with them. If time permits. Or if someone asks nicely.

    I’m also struggling to stay away from planning this “new adult” (“NA,” as it is affectionately called; the term means “16-18+” age range) novel about superheroes, and the middle grade novel that I–guilty swallow–might have started writing last weekend about chick viking dragon hunters.

    And oh, yeah, my hair is blue.

    Anyway, some presents for you: (more…)

  7. Interview with Kelly Hashway

    June 4, 2012 by Kiersi

    Young adult novelist Kelly Hashway (author of the upcoming Touch of Death, SpencerHill Press January 2013) let me interview her last week about a number of important, burning topics. Most importantly, we talked about why she is so awesome.

    Here is the interview, so you readers and writers out there can glean some of her wisdom, and turn it into prolificness! And, of course, get a sneak peek into the inner workings of a talented wordsmith. I didn’t edit a thing, just for you.

    Me: So, Kelly. You have a YA novel coming out with SpencerHill Press in January of next year, a sequel already slated to released six months later, and a triquel in the works (later she corrected me that, in fact, she had finished a first draft of the final book in the series and was just waiting to be contracted for it).

    Now I know that your first YA book, Touch of Death, is about necromancers. Why did you pick necromancers?

    Kelly: I came up with the idea when I was writing another novel that had to do with the thirteenth sign of the zodiac. He didn’t play a major part in the novel, but when I looked into his story I learned a lesser-known myth about him. It had to do with Medusa. His name is Ophiuchus (K note: I had to look up how to spell this), and he has the ability to bring the dead back to life. I thought that was pretty cool, but necromancer books have been done before—so I wanted to do something a little different. (more…)

  8. A Lesson for All Authors

    June 1, 2012 by Kiersi

    Kiera Cass's agent Elana Roth, calling a reviewer a "bitch"

    Kiera Cass's agent Elana Roth, calling a reviewer of Cass's book a "bitch" on Twitter

    As a reviewer, I’ve experienced an author’s wrath first-hand. In my particular case, my negative book review spectacle was more fueled by said author’s rabid pack of fans than by the author herself–later incendiary comments on Goodreads by someone named “Marilyn” even accused all of us who wrote negative reviews about the book of “colluding to ruin this good woman’s reputation.”

    Regardless of that hilariously absurd allegation, the whole situation got me to thinking in broader terms about the blogosphere and the ramifications of its naturally low barrier to entry. To set up a blog these days, all you need to do is visit a site like or Blogger and create an account. Pick a theme, add some content, and you’re up and ready to post some book reviews. Social media networks such as Goodreads lower the barrier even further, so anyone with a computer can sign on and review a book.

    By the same token, authors use these platforms to great success. Kiera Cass (who I will talk about more in a moment) keeps an online journal where she talks about book releases, signings, and more. I recently added a book to my Goodreads’ “to read” list after reading a fabulous blog post by that book’s author. I’ve built relationships with other debut YA authors on Twitter over things like cover reveals and critique partners. Social media–including my Twitter, my Facebook, and my blog–have all done a lot of my marketing for me, because I simply enjoy using these mediums to talk about my passion. (Which means I am always working, and by the same token, never working.)

    My friend Abi over at A Hunger to Learn pointed me to a much larger-scale debacle than my indie-pub incident. This controversy stars Kiera Cass, New York Times best-selling author of The Selection (to which I gave a panning review here), and a high-profile blogger-slash-book reviewer who goes by Wendy Darling. (more…)

  9. Writer Communities and the Power of the Web

    February 4, 2012 by Kiersi

    She Writes Members

    Just a sample of She Writes members and contributors

    If you’re a writer and you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of time doubting yourself. Is this novel I’m pouring my soul into really any good? How do I go about getting it published once I’m done? Am I really cut out for this industry after all?

    These are just a few of the reasons I recommend getting involved in an online writers’ community. Sometimes you just need that boost of confidence; someone to read your hook and tell you, “Wow! I can’t wait to read the rest of it!” Other times you need constructive feedback, networking, or just to hear about a successful author’s story of finding an agent and getting an offer for that debut novel. Someone who will make you think, “That could be me.” (more…)

  10. Colorful Rejections: Landing a Literary Agent

    January 28, 2012 by Kiersi

    Colorful Carousel in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    A strange, graffiti-mottled carousel I photographed in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Life over the last week has been a stark contrast of, well, everything: there’s gorgeous, sunny weather outside (yay for the southern hemisphere!), all the time in the world to work on my books and hone my craft, and to top it all off, an endless supply of kind-of-encouraging rejection letters from literary agents.

    On the one hand, at least they haven’t all been form letters. Even better, I’ve actually been getting responses. From what I hear (and read), that’s unusual at best. And strangely, it seems that from the agent perspective, my writing is good. The pitch is even good. It’s just not great. (more…)