Archive for the ‘Quick Tips’ Category

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

March 28th, 2014 | Deep Thoughts, Questions from Beginners, Quick Tips, Resources for Writing, The Writing Craft | 34 Comments

So it’s spring break for most people. You might be heading out of town, or driving to the beach, or trying to find a place to relax and dive into that new book you bought. I’m going the same thing — well… I live at the beach, so I’m not heading there, but I am trying to ditch the crowds find some quiet so I can read today. I have a long list of projects I want to get caught up on, so instead of doing emails and taking phone calls, I’m going to try and get away and just read for a while.

And that, of course, means I don’t think I’ll take the time to create a new blog post. Instead, I’ll let you YOU create it. One simple question: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It might be something about craft, or a trick you learned, something about writing quickly or leaving writer’s block behind. It could be advice on creating characters, or raising the stakes, or leaving people with a memorable lesson. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ve no doubt heard (or read) some great bit of wisdom that you took to heart and you noticed it changed your work. Share it with us. Just click on the “comment” bar below and offer the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received. You’re welcome to give us context, and tell who said it and what the circumstances were, if you want to — but don’t feel you HAVE to. You’re welcome to just offer one sentence with the advice you’ve got.

I do this once each year or so, and I have gleaned some wonderful tips from people over the years. Would love to hear what you have to share with your fellow writers. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

NOTES FROM UNDER A DESK

March 24th, 2014 | Agents, Quick Tips | 16 Comments

By guest writer HOLLY LORINCZ

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Holly Lorincz is the newest agent at MacGregor Literary; she was mentored by president Chip MacGregor for a year before her promotion, while also maintaining an editing and publishing consultation business, Lorincz Literary Services (http://literaryconsulting.com).

NOTES FROM UNDER A DESK

I admit it. I’m under my desk. Hiding.

No, there is not a knife-heavy serial killer lurking behind my door.
No, my boss is not on the rampage (today).
No, my mom is not at the door with a list of potential husbands.

 

I’m hiding because Chuck at Writer’s Digest did me a solid and featured my New Literary Agent Bio on his blog — a blog that has been reposted by seemingly hundreds of other bloggers. Of course, as a new agent, I need the exposure, and I’m relieved people in the industry know I’m alive. I’m not being flippant when I say I’m hugely grateful for the support and excited to continue building my client list.

 

So why hide? Because. I. Have. 497. Queries. In. My. Inbox.

I’ve created a response system . . . but it’s become more like bloody triage at the scene of a train wreck. I know, I shouldn’t complain. And I am happy to wade my way through the proposals, as long as I’m given the time to do it. Unfortunately, now I’m starting to get the second wave of letters from the first responders. Statements ranging from “I wrote to you five weeks ago and have yet to hear back” to “If you’re not interested, it’s still polite to write back” to “I sent you my query because Writer’s Digest said you were accepting queries; do you ignore everyone?” to “Hey, maybe you should give a crap about someone else other than yourself.”

I have to be careful because my first reaction to the squirrely ones is to immediately hit send on a one-sentence rejection letter. But that’s not right, and it’s not how I want to deal with queries. I’ve gone through the same gauntlet as these authors when I was looking for an agent for my first book — I understand the anxiety and vulnerability involved, and that many of these authors are trying to make a living with their writing. This is not a joke to them or something to be taken lightly. I get that, and I empathize.

So, in that vein, I’m going to offer advice — advice I wish I’d had when I was querying. And, not to say I’m the end-all-be-all of agenting advice, but I have gone on the agent-seeking journey, and I have spent quality time being the minion for the best agent in the US, and, finally, I have had to screen through (again) 497 queries in the past fourteen days. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the very, very, oh my god horrifiyingly ugly.

The following querying tips are not the same tips another agent would give you. Ha ha. Good luck with that. Read through the lens of your own common sense.

HOW HOLLY LORINCZ THINKS YOU SHOULD QUERY:

1. BE NICE
Or at least professional.
2. DON’T BE CRAZY
Just give it to me – BAM – but keep it tidy and circumspect.
Don’t bother with word play or tricks in your query letter (i.e. “please be careful with what I’m about to tell you —my family is in danger“). I don’t have the time for anything but the facts. If even your subject line is wordy (or especially if your subject line is wordy), I’m not taking the time to read further. Did I mention the other 496 queries I need to read? Think: hook, comparables, word count, and previous publications.
3. ACTUALLY READ THE MLA STYLEGUIDE
Indenting and extra lines between paragraphs? Why?!
4. DON’T READ MY FACEBOOK PAGE
If I find out from you I forgot to change the privacy setting on my son’s birthday party pictures from two years ago, well, that just makes me want to invest in a Panic Room— but not read your manuscript, you stalker.
5. READ MY AGENCY BIO, ESPECIALLY WHAT GENRES I WILL ACCEPT
A little stalking is okay. Reading my public blog posts and interviews is also acceptable , unless you’ve gone creepy and start referencing something I published in my high school literary magazine 20 – I mean, 10 – years ago.
6. BECOME CLOSE FRIENDS WITH SPELLCHECK
Submision. You’v. Defiantly versus definitely. It hurts.
7. DON’T GIVE IN TO HOMOPHONERY
Horse whisper? Of coarse? Their walking down the street?
I know perfection is impossible in a manuscript (believe me, I know) but give it your best shot in the one page query letter, the synopsis and the first five pages of your manuscript.
8. A SYNOPSIS IS A SYNOPSIS
Tell me, in 1- 2 pages, that first this happens, and then this, and then this, and this is how it ends. I don’t need philosophical or sociological or theological arguments expounded on for paragraphs at a time. And I definitely don’t need ten pages of it. I need the gist, not the bible.
9. I DON’T CARE WHAT YEAR YOU WERE BORN
Your writing background is very important to editors, and to me, but leave your life story for when we become friends.
10. EMAIL YOUR QUERY WITH YOUR MANUSCRIPT ATTACHED
Notice I said EMAIL. Not mail. I lose paper. Have you seen my desk?! (A handful of you super stalkers have probably already Google-Earthed it.) I know some agents still want a simple query with nothing attached but I don’t have time for that. I’d prefer not to go back and ask for 50 pages, and then the full manuscript. If the query letter in the body of the email piques my interest, I want to go directly to the manuscript to assess the writing style, storyline and craft. This is how I decide if I want to help a writer to publish — why prolong the process when it’s so easy to include and read/ignore an attachment?

I’m not being snarky. Well, okay, maybe a little snarky. But my goal, by telling you how I narrow the playing field, is to help you get your query on the radar. I love words, I love books, and I find it infinitely fulfilling to work with an author to get his or her words on a bookstore shelf. Unfortunately, I can only take on a finite amount of clients, thanks to that whole sleep thing, so I have to be tightly selective when I scan manuscripts. If I take on a new client, then I’m taking less time with my other clients. It has to be worth it.

In all seriousness, I wish you the very best of luck. You’re in the midst of a difficult, time consuming, soul killing process but you can make it a skosh easier on yourself if you pay attention to the little details.

The Amazingly Easy Short Cut Guide To Becoming A Great Writer (Tongue-In-Cheek Advice for The Lazy)

January 27th, 2014 | Questions from Beginners, Quick Tips, The Writing Craft | 1 Comment

BY GUEST AUTHOR KATHARINE GRUBB

Some are born great writers, some aspire to being a great writer and some have writerly
greatness thrust upon them. Then, sometimes, neither of those three options apply to us and we have to bushwhack our own path to greatness.

Is it just me, or does that sound like a lot of work?

I’d like to suggest that our writerly ambitions can be accomplished with little or no effort. In fact, I have a list of ten things you can do (or not do) to accomplish this goal. (If accomplishing goals is your thing.) I would have come up with eleven, but I got tired.

1. Don’t Write. Your day is busy enough. In fact, spend your down time doing things like hurling birds into piles of thieving pigs. Tell yourself that this is brain work! Your writing future is dependent on whether or not you see Downton Abbey! Every time you have a nagging thought that tells, you that maybe you should do Nanowrimo or something like that, just watch an episode of Hoarders until the feeling goes away. Smugness, with lack of physical activity, can be just as comforting as that pesky sense of accomplishment that comes with dedication and commitment. Trust me.

2. Don’t read. This is obvious. Since really there aren’t any new plots, there isn’t any point in reading at all. If you need to know something, don’t go any deeper than a search on Wikipedia. If you want a story to entertain you, you’ve got Netflix, right? Besides fiction is made up stories, which are basically lies. Just don’t bother. In fact, if you are reading this blog, stop right now and turn on Pandora, the Shakira station.

3. Hang Out With Stupid People. This should be easy. If you want to avoid greatness, then spend a lot of time with those who are content to stay where they are. It’s way, way easier to avoid reading and writing if your BFFs are Neanderthals. The people who actually accomplish something in their lives would take the effort (and it is effort) to find smart, inspiring, intelligent and encouraging people to rub elbows with, learn from and be mentored by. Not only is keeping such company hard, it’s risky too. You might not be liked or appreciated, or you might be thought to be stupid. It’s better not to take a chance.

4. Expect the universe to bring you want you want. You know that old phrase, luck favors the prepared? Don’t listen to it, that’s something that personal trainers and high school coaches say. There are plenty of statistics, but I’ve not bothered to find them, that shows that these people have never won the lottery and they’re bitter about it. Not you. Your talent/desires/destinies are special enough that the universe will just trip one day and it will all spill in your lap. So go back to bed. We’ll call you when the universe shows up.

5. If you have to write, look for short cuts. Hard work and diligence are for those people not smart enough to beat the system. Hustle, if you don’t know already, is a dance move from the ’70s, not a verb for people who want to accomplish great things. So if you must send a query letter (but if you do, you’re missing the point of this post entirely) don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Real agents can spot talent without the rules bringing you down.

6. If you have to work, and you make a mistake, then quit as soon as possible. Life should be easy and if you make mistakes, then you’re doing it wrong. If you hang out with the right kind of people, they will tell you about all the big dreams that they once had and how they quit when the going got tough. These people may be called quitters in some circles, but in others, they are called realists. Oh, and if you’re on a reality show when you do decide to quit, make sure you make a big scene, spew profanity and throw something. You never know when a future employer might hire you because of your spirit.

7. Never Ask Questions. First of all, you’re so smart, you don’t need to ask questions and if you do ask, it will just make you look weak. Secondly, even if you do ask, it may mean that you will not like the answer. You may have to change your way of thinking or how you do something. You are waiting for the universe to drop your destiny in your life, you don’t have time to change! It’s far better just to nod and smile and make it look like you know what you’re doing.

8. Hold Your Head Up High. You should broadcast loudly how little you are doing to pursue your dreams. (Pursue is far too strong a verb here, go easy on yourself and use the word, ponder.) People will respect your brashness and individual spirit. They will, most assuredly, talk about you behind your back and say things like, “She is so smart and optimistic! I admire her commitment to her pondering!”

9. Call Yourself What You Are. Do you dream of being a published writer? Call yourself that! It doesn’t matter that you haven’t published anything. You know that advice that says, “Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have”? Well, I say, call yourself the job you want, not the job that you have. The universe will take notice of this and bow to your wishes. Eventually. Believing in yourself is half the battle, right? If you have the right kind of friends and family, they will believe you even though you’ve never really written. But, I wouldn’t suggest mentioning that you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company when you fill out a bank loan, unless you have the pay stubs to prove it.

10. Wait. This is the easiest step for anyone who wants to be great. Just wait. Kick back on the LaZ-Boy, fall asleep on the couch, turn in early. It will come eventually. You’ve done nothing to make it happen, so everything you want will come to you like a dream.

Katharine Grubb has been represented by MacGregor Literary since April 2013 as a result of a contract really falling in her lap. Her book , The Ten Minute Novel: How to Write A Novel in Ten Minute Increments, will be released in 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton. She’s also self-published two novels, Falling For Your Madness and The Truth About The Sky. Katherine homeschools her five children and lives in Massachusetts. She blogs at www.10minutewriter.com and hopes every reader of this article has a sense of humor.

Thursdays with Amanda: 30 Random Publishing Facts

December 19th, 2013 | Publishing, Quick Tips, Uncategorized | 31 Comments

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

I turn 30 on Sunday (which is bittersweet…bitter because, well, I’m getting older…sweet because whenever people say “but aren’t you too young to be an agent?” I can reply “I’M THIRTY!”), and to commemorate this event, I decided to offer 30 completely and utterly random facts about publishing.

1. Publishing comes to a screeching halt in the month of December. This year, I’ve noticed a bit more going on than normal, but typically December is a vortex in which manuscripts are either lost or put on hold.

2. Agents who charge for their services are SCAMMING YOU.

3. Whenever editors (or agents, for that matter) mention a very specific type of book that they want…chances are, they won’t acquire it even if you show it to them. Situations like that are the result of meetings they’ve been in where they have either brainstormed or been told to look for something. But the mind can so easily change over time, and the desire for a historical  serial killer novel will most likely either fade or they’ll take a look at what that actually looks like and decide they’re going to pass.

4. Speaking of me being thirty, in NYC, there are a number of twenty-something publishing professionals. Even ones who are building their own lists. So while you may be shocked to see someone “so young” in the business, it’s actually quite common.

5. HOWEVER, in the CBA (the religious side of publishing) there are far, far fewer twenty-somethings. It’s sad.

6. Yes, BEA is as crazy as you imagine. Gobs of people. You turn the corner, oh, there’s Tim Gunn. Turn another corner, it’s that Giada chef lady. Walk a bit, oh hi, Jim Carrey.

7. Most people in publishing do NOT make much money, and the hours can be horrendous. So whenever an author will tell an agent that the advance money may not be important to us, but it’s certainly important to them, we do a major eye roll.

8. The only way to make more money if you work on the publisher side, is to get promoted. The only way to get promoted is to have a book break out.

9. When an agent goes to a conference, they are hoping to come away with ONE new client (though they won’t sign that client until months or weeks later). That is the measure of a successful conference. Many conferences, we end up not taking on anyone.

10. Yes, dystopian is dead.

11. Yes, paranormal is dead…maybe not as dead as dystopian, but it’s slowed down a lot.

12. Yes, New Adult is hot.

13. Yes, New Adult is typically just soft erotica, but there are publishers who are looking for NA without all the sex.

14. How overloaded is an agent’s inbox? Mine is saying I have 134 unread messages.

15. Editors work at their own pace. Sometimes it’s painfully slow, and no matter what an agent does, there is typically nothing that can make them go faster.

16. Building off of number 1, publishing operates on a calendar similar to the school year. The busiest times are the first halves of each semester. The slowest times are during the typical school breaks.

17. Agents talk. If an author is hard to work with, chances are, their agent has mentioned this a time or two to others.

18. It really is all about who you know. While we don’t make every decision based on this, it’s surprising how much networking really does play into the game.

19. Every editor is in their position because they want to publish books that matter. There are some blog posts circulating that indicate otherwise, but I promise you…no one would do this job if they didn’t have a passion for books and great storytelling.

20. You don’t need to live anywhere near your agent for it to be a great working relationship. In fact, you don’t even need to meet them (though it is nice if you can).

21. 95% of business is done through email. So begging your agent to call editors to pitch your book isn’t going to do as much good as you may think. Let’s remember, most editors are introverts. They’d choose an email over a surprise phone call any day.

22. There is no “right” or “wrong” number of clients that an agent can have. Some agents handle 100 clients very well. Others do better with 25. It all has to do with whether the agent feels they are fostering the types of relationships with their authors that they want. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to ask an agent’s clients about that very relationship and what it’s like. Some agents keep everything strictly business, while others like to nurture friendships.

23. Yes, publishing professionals let the occasional typo slip. In a fast-paced world in which most correspondence is done by typing, typos are going to happen. This understanding also applies to manuscripts. We understand that typos happen…so we’re more concerned with the frequency of typos in a manuscript and whether the author commits the same errors over and over again (such as always referring to “they’re” as “their.”)

24. Conferences are GREAT ways to rub shoulders with professionals and get your foot in the door. Especially smaller conferences where it’s easier to get that one-on-one time and make a good impression.

25. When an agent offers feedback, it’s rarely just based on our opinion. Usually, we are pulling from everything that we have experienced in that genre over the past year or so. So, if I tell someone to build up the theme more in the opening chapters of their memoir, it’s because I’ve seen rejections based on that. I’m trying to help you get through to publication…I’m not tearing apart your work just because I can.

26. A vast majority of publishing professionals read manuscripts on ereaders. So the question of whether to double space and how to format the manuscript, doesn’t apply as much as it used to. This also means that it’s best to send your manuscripts as a .doc attachment instead of a PDF or a .docx. This is because .doc is most easily transferable to an ereader device.

27. Just because a work is rejected one place and then picked up another doesn’t mean that agent or editor “missed” something. Fact is, books many times succeed because of the team behind them, and there’s no telling whether a book would have had the same success had it been picked up by another house.

28. We want to help you. We want you to realize your dreams. But we can’t please and help everyone. We aren’t here to make you feel bad about yourself, though we understand that sometimes that happens. And we’re sorry.

29. Many times, we aren’t as up-to-date in our pleasure reading as you may think. I have people oftentimes say “oh, I just read yada yada book by so-and-so author…but you’ve probably already read that, so there’s no use in explaining it!” Actually, no. Thousands of books are published every year, so I probably HAVEN’T read that one. It doesn’t make me a bad agent. It just makes me human, with a human amount of time to spend on reading every day (and a stack of author manuscripts too tall to measure).

30. Publishers usually don’t know how to market any more than you do. I talk about this briefly in my marketing book, The Extroverted Writer. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t right when they tell you that you need to build a platform or you need to write up a marketing plan. So listen to them…even if they can’t give specifics when you ask them “how?” That’s what people like me are there for :)

Well, there you have it. 30 Random Facts About Publishing. Did you learn anything new, or is this all old information?

 

10 Gift Ideas for Writers

December 16th, 2013 | Quick Tips | 14 Comments

Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ever wondered what to get your critique partners or writer friends/spouses for the holidays? Or maybe you’re at a loss for what to ask for this year? Never fear. I’ve got a drool-worthy list right here. With gifts sure to please you/the daydreaming wordsmiths in your life…regardless of your price range.

1. Never underestimate a writer’s need for a librarian. When the Internet fails to provide much-needed search results and the writer’s list of historians and experts proves to be unhelpful, the first place many go is straight to the town library. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. It gets lonely, staring at a computer for hours on end. The library gets writers out of the house. We agents believe such behavior should be encouraged as often as possible. That’s why this mug is the perfect reminder that just because you don’t know what the Sami people wore in 1710, doesn’t mean all is lost. Keep calm. Ask a librarian.

 

2. If you’ve ever been around your writer friend(s) when they’re in the midst of writer’s block, you know it’s a painful sight. Bags under the eyes. Unkempt hair. Dirty clothing. While their children have gone unfed, their house uncleaned…okay, so in all honesty, the very same thing happens when a writer is under deadline. So all the more reason to give your writer friends these Writer Dice. They not only help with plot formation, but can get stories out of sticky situations. Meaning less time spent slaving away at the keyboard, writing and rewriting, and more time sending out polished, finished drafts. (Check out the video here).

 

3. One of the most useful gifts ever is a subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace. Even if only for one month. Fact is, Publisher’s Marketplace is the place to find out what agents are representing, what publishers are buying, and what trends are rising (while others fade). Gift this to a writer when they’re ready to start submitting and they very well may make you the benevolent savior character in their next work. Of course, benevolent savior characters always end up dying somehow. But it’s the thought that counts.

 

4. While the Writer’s Dice (above) handles plot issues, another major roadblock for all writers is characterization. While writers like to think they know their characters, they very rarely go through any kind of exercise to ensure they know their characters. Thus, samey-same protagonists, stereotypical antagonists, and love interests that are nothing more than uber hunky or super sexy. ENTER Smash Pads. These pocket-sized pads are full of prompts that most scrapbookers and nostalgia-seekers use to simply blab on and on about their lives. So why not use them with characters in mind?! The Entertainment book asks for top movies, restaurants, and more. The Travel one is for jotting down your character’s jet-setting ways. There’s even a Family one, a Special Occasions one, and more!

 

5. Every writer loves to dream. In order to grasp this, first you must understand that a writer’s dreams have no bounds. They may dream about their exquisite lives as socialites or their “inevitable” interview on Oprah. They may dream about receiving a Pulitzer Prize or about moving to Manhattan, because their literary, published writer friends demand it. But while most of their dreams are possible (even if not probable), the one dream they have that is 100% never ever going to happen is the dream to meet their dead author idol. Every writer has one. Fitzgerald. O’Connor. Tolkein. Every writer has a dead writer that he/she draws inspiration from. This is why Midnight in Paris is the single best movie you could gift your writer friends. It provides tons of writerly inspiration while adding plenty of fuel to the “writer dreams” fire.

 

6. On top of a perfect book idea and a great, polished manuscript, a writer needs a plan for marketing and promotions. It’s the only way to ensure a longstanding career. So, do your writer friends a favor, and get them each books on marketing and promotions. One I unbiasedly stand by is my book, The Extroverted Writer. It’s $5 for the ebook, and about $8 for the print version. And hey, once they start rolling in the money from their Oprah interviews and awards and glamorous lifestyles, I’m sure there’ll be a trickle down. Maybe they’ll introduce you to their agent or editor. There is no shame in riding on coattails.

 

7. Back to the whole dead author thing … writers who REALLY love their dead authors probably also get a bit sigh-of-longing-ish whenever they see a typewriter. Heck, they probably get mushy even talking about typewriters. There’s just something comforting about using the same kind of tool that your idol used (hence, why Jane Austin obsessors have most likely tried to longhand a novel…until their hand cramped up). So imagine gifting the very kind of typewriter used by Hemingway or Updike or Mitchell. Yep. This is possible.

 

8. We all know that many classic authors were oftentimes crazily drunk…or at least constantly drinking. While I’m not saying to get your writer friends tons of booze, I do think it’s worth noting that every writer has a vice. Every writer has that thing they need in order to get their muse going. Figure out what your friends’ vices are, and you have a great gift on your hands. (P.s. your friends’ vices may include chocolate, coffee, pictures of puppies, and Candy Crush Saga).