WriteOnCon is Almost Here!

Attention all Writer Friends!

The best news you’ll read today is that WriteOnCon is scheduled for August 26 – 27 = just over a week away!

This is a FREE online Writing Conference that helped me out tremendously last year. Anyone who is working on Anything should check it out. Heck, even if you’re not currently writing, you should still check it out because you’ll find loads of great information and tips! There will be guest speakers (you can watch the videos later if you’re busy during the day) and best of all, you can post your query letter, the first few pages of your story, and more in the forums. After you’ve done that, read what other people have posted, leave comments, and most will return the favor. I got some fantastic feedback last year that catapulted my writing into new areas that have been wickedly fun (so fun that I have completely ignored my blog lately).

Perhaps best of all, several literary agents and editors will be participating, leaving comments, etc.

So polish up whatever you’re working on (it does not have to be a completed manuscript) and get ready to post!

The website is under construction right now, but hopefully it will be up and running anytime. Here is the link: http://writeoncon.com

I hope to read some of your work soon!

-Craig

*Check out my posts about WriteOnCon from last year for a lot more info.

WriteOnCon – Great advice on queries, voice, the market, and more.

Writeoncon 2013 has ended, but you can still read all the articles, watch the videos, and get loads of great advice on everything from how to write a great query letter (check out my revised one here), obtaining the right voice for your story/narrater, trends in the market, editing tips, and tons more. Everything is absolutely free, so nothing is stopping you from learning and getting involved.

Check out the writeoncon.com posts and bookmark it. The site may provide future forums for authors to share their own work, critique others, and make valuable contacts in the writing community.

Speaking of which, THANK YOU to all those who critiqued my query and writing sample during the online convention. I made some new friends and received excellent feedback. Before I brave the slush pile, I will revise a bit, concentrating on my voice so that the narration sounds less adult and more in keeping with the Young Adult genre–a bit more intimate and closer to a teenager’s style. Fortunately, as those of you who know me well can attest, I’m ridiculously immature. So I think I can handle the teen voice better than what currently exists in the manuscript. Wish me luck!

Query Writing Tips – Strategy for Querying Literary Agents

As in any campaign, there are many things to consider when sending your query letter to literary agents.

It is also important to note that you should not query two or more agents at the same agency at the same time. Send it to one agent at that company. If that agent rejects it, you are free to send it to another agent at that same agency.

You should send your query to multiple agents/agencies simultaneously. Giving an agent an “exclusive” while you wait to hear back from her merely indicates that you don’t know how the publishing world works. You don’t need to mention that you’ve sent the query to other agents. They will assume that you have.

I recommend making a spreadsheet that includes the following: Agent Name, Agency, Date Sent, Date Responded, and Response (including any notes the agent may give regarding why it was rejected). Often the note you’ll make is simply “no request made for my book.” When an agent explains why she didn’t offer representation, I copy the email and paste it into this spreadsheet. I do not paraphrase because I don’t want to lie to myself. I worry that a month later, I might claim that the rejection was for some other reason that I like better. You want honesty. Brutal honesty might be the best kind.

You will get a lot of rejection. In fact, I just got rejected last week! But it is okay! No worries. Thankfully, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 had just come out on DVD and it cheered me up immensely. COMPLETELY UNRELATED SIDE-NOTE: the above is an animated version of the celebrated Batman Graphic Novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. If you like Batman, you should read it.

Writing a Brief Synopsis

The Harper Voyager contest asks for a 1500 character (letters + punctuation marks) synopsis of the novel. I had a devil of a time getting my 300-page story into a single page, but 1500 characters equals just ½ a page.

So I hacked at my one-page this past weekend. I even got some nice writers I’ve met via Twitter and GUTGAA to offer critiques (Thanks to http://maravalderran.blogspot.com/ and http://emcastellan.com/ for their help!).

What I came up with is similar to my query, though I haven’t copied anything. Still, it starts with a similar hook, provides the conflict and stakes, but then goes farther. In a synopsis, you have to spoil your ending. That means summarizing, as efficiently as possible, the main action and resolution.

Try summarizing your favorite book or movie in 1500 characters. If you love the story, you will find this exercise painfully difficult. Then imagine you wrote the original story. And the kicker: if you don’t chop your story down enough and into a cohesive summary that still “needs to be read,” nobody will read your actual book.

On the plus side, there is a chance!

Query and Pitch Contests

I am currently involved/interested in five online query or pitch contests that could get my book into the hands of agents or publishers.

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been able to post my query, first page, and “quick pitch” on a few blogs. Many writers, agents and editors have offered advice and criticism. The result is obviously good, because my revised query just made it into the final round of the Small Press Contest on Deana Barnhart’s blog (http://deanabarnhart.blogspot.com/).

If you want to get published, you should enter online contests because they will improve your writing and your chances of being discovered. Besides that, I’ve actually “met” some nice people who know loads about writing and getting published. Networking is important and, it turns out, fun and rewarding. “Thank you,” to all the fine people who have critiqued my work in the last few weeks!

“But how do you find out about these online contests?” you ask. Answer: Twitter. I use Tweetdeck (it’s free) and set up columns based on contests I “hear about” via my Twitter feed. Follow agents and other aspiring writers like me (because I know this blog just doesn’t give you enough “Craig Time”) on Twitter and you will learn about these events. If you’ve never used Twitter, don’t worry. You don’t have to “Tweet” anything until you are more comfortable with it. For now, you can just set it up (very easy and user friendly) and soak up a lot of useful information.

Check out the following:

Harper Collins Voyager: http://harpervoyagerbooks.com/category/voyager-uk/

Pitch On: http://yatopia.blogspot.com/

Spooktacular Pitch Extravaganza: http://thiswritersworldplotbunnies.blogspot.com/2012/09/spooktacular-pitch-extravaganza-details.html

Pitch Live: http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

Good luck!

Query Writing Tips – Waiting to Hear Back from Literary Agents

Congratulations! You have sent off your masterfully written query letter and eagerly await a request (or two! Or three! Or a dozen!) from literary agents.

And then you wait for a long time. So what do you do?

ANSWER: Leave the agent alone! Do not hound the agent! If you annoy her, she will decide—before even reading your query—that you’re a pain and she doesn’t want to work with you. The agency website probably gives an estimate for how long query responses take. Some agencies only write you back if they want to see the book, so in those cases, you might not hear anything.  Ever. STORY: I just experienced this and was tempted to write again. I did receive an automated “we have received your query” email when I initially sent the query, so I know the agent “got it,” but apparently she just wasn’t interested.  So I moved on. Again: Do not hound the agent!

Give the agent whatever time the website recommends or whatever time the agent says she needs. If after the allotted time you have not heard anything, write a polite email reminding the agent about it and include the query again in that email. Be polite. Agents are busy and won’t like it if you bother them. They are working all the time.

While you’re waiting, keep researching other agents! Make lists, keep files, etc. I’ll write more about how to “strategize” in a later post.

Query Letter Tips – The Closing + Your Bio

Closing your Query Letter is the easiest part of your initial correspondence with a literary agent.

After you’ve written your greeting/introduction and hooked the literary agent with the premise and plot of your novel, you might want to end your Query Letter with a brief note about yourself.

Did you notice the word “might?” You do not have to write anything about yourself.  Only include biographical information if your experience is relevant to your book. Are you published already? Has your writing won any awards? Do you have a degree in creative writing? Are you a police officer who has written a crime drama? If there’s really nothing—don’t worry about it. Your story should speak for itself—it is the hook—not you (unless you are famous, I suppose). You don’t have to include any “bio” information because it probably won’t matter at this point. I’m not trying to be insulting here—remember that the goal of the query is to get the agent to request your story. If having biographical info will help with that, put it in. If the bio doesn’t pertain to the story, skip it.

Lastly, sign off by thanking the agent for her time and say that you can send the completed manuscript at her request. Make sure your contact info is on the letter/in the email somewhere.

Hit send.