Category Archives: Biggest Mistakes New Writers Make

How to Publish Topic #1: So let’s start with agents.

Whether or not to get an agent is a VERY personal decision. It is one that I flip flop back and forth with. You need to ask yourself a few questions before you make this decision.

  1. Do I have the ability to negotiate my own contract? (Another option is to hire a lawyer to review and explain the contract, but you will still be on your own for negotiating)
  2.  Do I need an agent to get into the publisher that I want?
  3.  Are you willing to trust your publisher with income statements (Because you’d need a PHD to figure out your sales/royalties)

There may be more questions that would point you in one direction or another, but these are the biggies for me.

Number one and three, I think, are self explanatory. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone on your side. Just remember, you will pay them 15% of your royalties for them to “be on your side”

This, I think, is the major question regarding whether or not to partner with an agent:

Think GirlDo I need an agent to get into the publisher that I want?

In general, if you want to get into the Big Six (5) under one of the imprints that gives you larger advances and printed book circulation, you need to have an agent. A few of these houses have open submission once a year, or you can try pitching at conferences, but in general, you need an agent to get a foot in the door. Some of the “not big six but still really big” houses require agents, too. So do your research, and choose wisely.  However, make sure you are reaching for the Big 6 for the right reasons (which I will discuss in my next post)

The interesting thing is that many agents are starting to send manuscripts to Qualified Small Houses. You need to be careful of this, because if the only reason you want an agent is to get into a Big Six, and they get you a contract at a Qualified Small House, You have wasted your 15% (because most Qualified Small Houses take un-agented submissions.)

However: In those houses, agented manuscripts seem to get a looksee before unagented manuscripts. I learned that recently in my own querying. So again, you need to decide what it is you really want.

So what do you think? Agent or no agent, and why? Do you have a reason I did not cover above that makes you want that agent relationship?

JenniFer_EatonF

Living a week in an agent’s shoes

I recently had the opportunity to judge a writing contest.  I, and two other brave souls, volunteered to read all the anonymous entries, and choose one winner who would win “the pot” collected from the entry fees.

I am going to admit that this was a grueling experience at times.  I swore, somewhere around the seventh entry, that I would never do this again.  My relief when I’d finally read the last entry, and made my choice for winner, was overwhelming.

Then I got to thinking.  What I went through is probably not unlike what an agent or a submissions editor goes through every day.  They get a mailbox full of submissions, and they have to review them all and choose only one, or none.

Now, consider this.  The people who entered this contest paid an entry fee.  This is one of the reasons I volunteered.  I mean, seriously… if you are going to fork up ten bucks to get into a contest, you gotta know your writing is good enough to have a chance, right? I imagined my mailbox filled with fantastic, wonderfully imagined and carefully crafted stories.

Did I get that? Ummm… Not always.

Now, this is not to say that there were not some great entries. There were. But at times, I held my hand to my head and thought, “What was this person thinking”?

The good thing that came out of this is the realization that what you hear is true. There is a lot of poorly written or poorly executed work out there in the query-sphere.

If you can honestly look at your work and say:

1.       It has been edited multiple times

2.       It has been critiqued multiple times

3.       It has been beta read by multiple readers

4.       I have listened to critiques/beta comments and made changes without thinking “they just don’t understand me” and ignoring them.

5.       I have a story arc with a beginning, middle and end.

6.       There is a journey/change in the main character that makes the story worth reading.

7.       There is conflict.

I could keep going, but I’ll stop there.  If you can say “yes” to all of the above, then you at least have a chance of getting read by an agent or editor. If you work stands out as well written and conceptualized, you will be in the 25% or so that will actually be considered.  This is the place where good writing is a given. This is where you are in competition for the best story.

This is where you want to be. If you answered “no” to any of the list above, and you are querying and getting rejections, there is a possibility you are just wasting their time. (And yours)

What I realized judging this contest is that there must be hundreds of thousands of people out there that are wasting their time by submitting before they are ready.

Do your research. Make sure you have learned your craft.

Don’t be afraid to ditch a story you have worked on if it is not marketable.  Move on to something else. Every time you sit down to write you are better than the last time. Be patient until you can honestly say “This is my best work.”

_JenniFer____EatoN

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“I’m sending My Novel Out to Query.” Are you sure you want to do that?

I just got an email that really disturbed me.  No, it was not from one of those creepy guys on Facebook who friends you and then sends you scary PMs… This was from someone I actually know.  Well, cyber-know at least.

This person is a critique partner. Someone working on their first book.

What did the email say that disturbed me so much?

“I’m going to send this out to agents. Can you look at my query and synopsis?”

OMG.

Was I worried about helping with a query and synopsis?  Nope. Not at all. I do it all the time.

So what was it that drove a jagged, rusty bar through my heart?

“I am going out to query.”

I feel incredibly thankful for that little angel on my shoulder who whacked me upside the head two years ago and said “Don’t do it. Your novel sucks.”

Some people, unfortunately, do not have a little angel. Or if they do, they’re not listening.

A quote from Dan Blank keeps coming to mind.  It’s something like: “Writing a book for the sake of writing a book is a worthwhile experience. Not all books should (or need) to be published.” (I totally paraphrased that)

Anyway. I’d like to remind everyone that a sizable number of first novels should be placed in a drawer and never thought of again. Call them a learning experience. A small portion of these can be resurrected, but should be used as an outline and completely rewritten. I would guess that less than one percent are worthy of publication.

But does it hurt to try?

Jury is out on that.  If you have countless hours to waste researching agents/editors and then have even more hours to send a manuscript out that has no chance at all at publication – more power to you. The chances of them remembering you and instantly deleting your second or third manuscript are slim, right?

(Did that last paragraph seem slightly jaded?  If so, GOOD. It was meant to.)

My other big worry is that after a few rejections, instead of shelving manuscripts that are not ready, authors will turn to self-publishing. [Cringe] The thought makes me shiver.  You think critique partners can be harsh?  Try a review from someone on Amazon who is angry at you for wasting their time or money.  Have you read those kind of reviews?  I feel so sorry for those authors!

(Aside: For the record, I think self-publishing is great… If you are ready and have received professional line editing and copy editing)

It took me 17 drafts of my first novel before I decided to shelf it.

Two years of work, sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

Was it worth it?

 

Totally!I learned tons from the experience.  I took what I learned to my NEXT novel.  And when that was done, I took what I learned from writing my second novel into my third novel (all the while pumping out novellas and shorts and getting professional feedback) And I took all of that experience and dove into my fourth novel.

Each. Got. Better.

And even after I thought “maybe my novel is good enough” I was STILL shy of certain agents, and ESPECIALLY my target publisher.  It was not until agents or editors started saying things like:

 “Your writing is strong, but I do not have a place for science fiction right now”

or things like:

“This is not for me, but if you have another book in “xxxx” genre please send it directly to me at [insert email address]”

… that I started sending out to the agents and houses at the “top” of my wish list. And by the way – They ARE NOT reviewing my first novel. That is still safely sitting on my shelf, waving and smiling at me every day.

My point is, don’t feel pressured to publish your first novel. If you are serious about writing, and you are unsure, just move on to the next one. I guarantee novel #2 will be better.

But if you do decide to go for it, good luck!  I wish you all the best, and totally hope you are in that one percent of shining stars.

JenniFer_EatonF

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Simple Rules to Writing a Great Novel

Writing_A_Great_Novel

For the past 32 weeks, we’ve been discussing Guthrie’s 32 Rules to Writing A Great Novel.  Here is a handy-dandy list of all the articles and links to them, all in one place.

This is a great time to review, especially if you are editing your manuscript.

Please let me know which one you found the most helpful, or if you think this guy is just off his rocker. :-)

Enjoy!

And Happy Editing!

01- Writing is Subjective – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1yw

02- Oblique Dialog – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1An

03- Whatsa Strong Verb? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1AK

04- Easy on the Adjectives – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1B8

05- Two for One is not always a good thing – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Bc

06- The shorter the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cd

07- Once is enough, Thank you very much. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ci

08- Show, Don’t Tell – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cl

09- Just the facts, Ma’am – The important facts – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cp

10- Don’t be cute – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Eg

11- Sound like a writer, without SOUNDING like a writer – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

12- Who’s talking now? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

13- Yep. Your Write. Ya gotta change it. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ff

14- Stop “saying” things – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fk

15- They’re not psychic – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fq

16- Come late, leave early – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H0

17- Don’t dump on me! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H2

18- Goals, anyone? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HL

19- Don’t sleep with him/her – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HP

20- Go ahead, torture ‘em! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HR

21- The stinkier the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HT

22- The long and short of it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1IP

23- Stop being all proper – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ke

24- Stop feeling! And no thinking! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kp

25- Don’t repeat the tense – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kt

26- Cut your weakest player – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ky

27- Plant Vegetables, not information – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KD

28- Keep it to yourself, Jerk! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KG

29- No happy shruggers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KK

30- Pronouns. Tricky little suckers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KM

31- Shoot him later – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KO

32- Forget about it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KQ

Forget about it! — Rule #32 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #32

32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

When you read long articles like this, don’t you just hate it when you get to the end and an author puts in a disclaimer like this?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say MOST of the rules in this series are very important, and should not be broken… but, some can IF DONE CORRECTLY.

Let’s talk about Rule 28 that I morphed into “Don’t make your MC unlikable”.  An unlikable MC is possible, if done VERY VERY well.

Ever watch the television show HOUSE?  What a jerk that guy was.  But a lot of people tuned in, because he was portrayed in a way that made us LOVE HIM anyway.

I WOULD NOT recommend this approach to a new writer.  It’s hard.

I’d stick to the rules as closely as you can.  Yes, any rule can be broken. Best Selling authors do it all the time.  But remember… best-selling authors are not searching for agents or publishers.  They’ve “done their time” so to speak.

Save the deviance for later in your career.

So that’s it!  All 32 Rules of Hunting Down the Pleonasm

Which one was your favorite? 

Which did you learn the most from? 

Which do you close your eyes and pretend you don’t know about, ‘cause you don’t wanna listen? 

Let’s chat!

Jennifer___Eaton

Shoot Him Later — Rule #31 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #31

31: Spot the moment of maximum tension and hold it for as long as possible. Or as John D. MacDonald put it: “Freeze the action and shoot him later.”

Love this train of thought.  This goes along with torturing your character.  Don’t only torture your character!

Torture them longer!

I have this theme/problem in my current work.  It is high paced, and I don’t want to slow it too much, but there is this one scene that I want to hesitate on to really drag in the emotional impact.  While it doesn’t take that long, I want to really dig in to what the character feels and goes through.  This is all about building tension. And nothing makes me turn a page more than wondering what the heck will happen.

Jennifer___Eaton

Keep it to yourself, jerk! — Rule #28 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #28

28: If an opinion expressed through dialogue makes your POV character look like a jerk, allow him to think it rather than say it. He’ll express the same opinion, but seem like a lot less of a jerk.

Hmm.  Depending on how this is used, he can still look like a jerk just thinking about it.

I’d like to expound on this and say be careful of making your main character unlikable. Period. I’m reading a novel for crit right now in which I really can’t stand the MC, and she has no concrete reason for doing the dumb things she does.  If I had picked up this novel in a bookstore, I would have put it back by now.

The author said “It’s good that you don’t like her. I’m doing my job.”

This author just doesn’t get it, and is waiting with bated breath for rejection #215 on her queries.

You need to connect with the main character.  No one is going to want to read about a character they do not care about.  They can be a jerk, but you have to make them relatable, and your reader has to care.

If you don’t have that engagement with your reader, you don’t have an audience.

Jennifer___Eaton

Plant vegetables, not information — Rule #27 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #27

27: Don’t plant information. How is Donald, your son? I’m quite sure Donald’s father doesn’t need reminding who Donald is. Their relationship is mentioned purely to provide the reader with information.

Ha!  If you’ve ever had a beta read done by me, you know I’m a viper when it comes to info-dumps.  But I usually tag them when they are paragraphs long.

What Guthrie mentions here is a little more subtle, but it should jump out at you as unrealistic dialog.

Anywhere where you are dropping information in an unnatural way is bad.  Also be careful, because you can insert information in a completely logical thought, but then end up going off on a tangent of info-dumping and lose your reader.

Do you have any funny examples of this?

Jennifer___Eaton

Cut your weakest player — Rule #26 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #26

26: When you finish your book, pinpoint the weakest scene. Cut it. If necessary, replace it with a sentence or paragraph.

I have contradicting views on this.  If I was reading this with my first novel (that I pantsed) in my hands, I’d say “yes”… and to probably more than one scene.  However, now that I am outlining and clearly plotting my novels, I’m not so sure this is true.

I’d agree to cut it is it has no conflict, or does not draw the story forward. That’s a given.

My fear is that if everyone follows this rule, they will take out important scenes, and replace them with three sentences of summary… which is a form of tell.

I’m going to put my foot down and NOT agree with this one.

What do you think?

Jennifer___Eaton

Don’t repeat the tense — Rule #25 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #25

25: Avoid unnecessary repetition of tense. For example: I’d gone to the hospital. They’d kept me waiting for hours. Eventually, I’d seen a doctor. Usually, the first sentence is sufficient to establish tense. I’d gone to the hospital. They kept me waiting for hours. Eventually, I saw a doctor.

Oops.  I think I’m guilty of this.  But now that I look at it, especially with sentences out of context, it’s easy to see why it’s unnecessary.

Let’s look at the examples, and correct them.  Do the sentences still say the same thing?

They’d kept me waiting for hours.

They kept me waiting for hours, or I waited for hours

 

Eventually, I’d seen a doctor.

I’d seen a doctor, or I saw a doctor.

The second sentence not only says the same thing, but it also reads more cleanly.

Watch for breaking the other rules when doing this, though. A few of these made me cringe, but they are out of context, so I’m not sure.

Jennifer___Eaton