Category Archives: Road to Publication

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #2: Uneven Narrative Flow

 

Get past the gatekeeper

Hi! I’m still feeling pink. So pink is me!

Today we’re going to talk about something almost everyone needs to deal with. This is one of those topics that has to do with “art”. Writing a novel isn’t about just slapping words on a page. You need to create a scene and inject mood with only words.  Let’s looks at this a bit…

Read-hold up PKO_0016876Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

My First Reader Notes on Uneven Narrative Flow :

“The manuscript needs a careful eye to look for run-on sentences. Many sentences could also be re-arranged to smooth out the narrative flow by moving the end to the beginning and vice versa. And the writer needs to vary sentence type. This manuscript is filled with chunks of punchy, short sentences (making for a “jabby” read) and then chunks of long sentences. Overall, it was clunky to read.”

Is your prose “jabby?” Do you notice that you have too many punchy sentences in a row? Look to intermix them with longer sentences to give the reader a chance to breathe.

This might be hard for some people to pick out. In general, don’t use a lot of short and choppy unless you are trying to heighten the speed/action/ or tenseness of a story. Long sentences slow things down.

In general paragraphs, you should switch up a lot between long and short sentences. There are some programs out there that will scan your manuscripts to tell you when there are too many long and/or to many short sentences.  You can use these to help you spot them until you are comfortable enough to “feel” the sentence structure on your own.

Sound good?

Now go and rock those sentences!

Don’t forget, Donna will be popping in to answer questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask someone that’s been inside the trenches, so please take advantage while I have her all tied up graciously offering her assistance for the good of all.

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About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

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About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

 

Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper #1: World Building

 Woo-hoo! As promised, here is the first of a running series of posts to help you “get past the gatekeeper” and have your submission read by the actual agent/editor you sent your baby to, and not just the intern. I’ll be popping in with my own comments. I’ll be in pink, because I feel totally pink today.

Are ya ready? Well, here we goooooo…

Get past the gatekeeper

Think GirlBased on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.

 

Mistake number one:

ADDRESS WORLD BUILDING ISSUES

Note from Jennifer: World building!  We’ve talked about this!  We need to ground our readers in the setting, right? Well, that’s not just me yapping. Here it is coming from a lady who REJECTED MANUSCRIPTS for this very reason!  Read on, fine folks, read on!

This was Donna’s feedback to the agent on the very first manuscript she read:

My First Reader Notes To The Agent: “The writer began with wonderful descriptive details drawing on all senses and then she just stopped – and I stopped reading. She stopped grounding us in the world of her story.”

Okay, stop here guys.  Think this over a minute. And I mean be serious with yourself…

Could there be a richness missing in your manuscript? Answer questions like these: Where are we? Another town? A different world? Are these places what we know, but different? What are the differences?

We also need to ground the reader in the story, otherwise they are lost. Where are your characters in the scene?

EXAMPLES:

Are they outside? “The earth was all gravel beneath my feet.”

Are they in a tunnel? “The stale air threatened to choke me.”

Through dialogue you can show time and distance.

EXAMPLE:  “Tom’s house was two miles away…takes a day’s walk to get there…I hadn’t been back since last fall.”

All stories happen somewhere. Whether you write fantasy, science fiction, or even about the “real world,” world building is key to creating a meaningful story. World building is so that your characters have a backdrop to live, work, and engage! Your favorite books, movies, and TV shows all involve world building. Putting the time into it will improve your writing and enrich your story. No need to give all the details…readers love to fill in the blanks with their imagination. One detailed street in a town can give us the entire town’s flavor.

Alien EweWorld building is just as important for a contemporary teen story set in Wisconsin as it in an alien universe. Why? Because life in a Wisconsin small town is foreign to someone who grew up in the big city of L.A. or NYC. If your character puts cheese on his pie, we may understand that’s part of the world of his Wisconsin town, not L.A.

 
World building is more than “setting,” it covers everything in that world. Money, clothing, land boundaries, tribal customs, building materials, transportation, sex, food and more.

Remember, you’re not writing an encyclopedia but a story with flesh and blood characters put through challenges. Story comes first. World building supports the story.

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WORLD BUILDING TIPS:

  1. Create a story bible of the elements and details in your story.
  2. Build as you go.
  3. Inspiration? Use photos/cut-out collages.
  4. Make sure your details are relevant and have meaning.
  5. Not sure what to cut? Ask yourself when adding in world building elements to your story: does it move the plot along? Does it connect to the theme? Does it support the growth of the characters?
  6. Draw a map to ground yourself and your readers, even if your story occurs in one place.
  7. Build worlds that interest you.
  8. World building supports mood, theme, conflict, character, culture, and setting.

Now go. Build your world! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.

Great stuff, huh? Donna will be popping in to answer questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask someone that’s been inside the trenches, so please take advantage while I have her all tied up graciously offering her assistance for the good of all.

swish skid mark

About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.

 swish skid mark

About Joshua and the Lightning Road:

Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.

 

Slapping yourself into realizing: “You did it.” – Accepting that you’ve achieved a goal.

About a week ago, I was planning on writing an article about coming to terms with failure. By failure, I mean not achieving a goal.

In this case, the goal was finishing writing ASHES IN THE SKY: Book two of FIRE IN THE WOODS on time. I entered last weekend still reviewing beta comments, and completing the tail end of an overwhelming content edit that changed most of the second quarter of the book… with the manuscript due on Sunday.

I know. Impossible.

I needed to read ASHES from front to back, FOR THE FIRST TIME, over the weekend. Yes, to my shame, I had not read the book in its entirety yet. I had no idea if it “flowed”— especially with the sweeping changes. (Suggested by beta readers — the only ones who HAD read it front to back)

PKO_0001507 tired pink robeFriday night, I completed the content edits and sent them off to a very critical beta reader… Someone who I trusted not to baby me or fan-girl. I told her to be straight with me… that I was planning on asking for an extension anyway.

And then I collapsed into bed.

Everyone asks for extensions, right?

PKO_0007393 Yipee Wahoo Jump Pink RobeSaturday morning I popped out of bed to the sounds of pelting rain. Score! Thank you God! (Because soccer had been cancelled… Sorry kids, but now Mommy has four extra hours of editing time.) So I made the kids pancakes, and settled down for a marathon read through.

A few hours later, I’m thinking, “damn… either I’m tired, or this is pretty good!”

In early afternoon, the critical beta comes back suggesting minor changes. Easy breezy.

I make the changes and keep going. In the back of my head I keep thinking about all those reviewers who read FIRE IN THE WOODS in one or two days. I can’t read that fast, but I was delving into the world of the power-readers… those who pick up on pacing and plot errors, because they read a book in one sitting. It gave me a more critical eye, and helped me to tighten.

At 6:00 Sunday night, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and said: “Yes, it’s done.”

Manuscript submitted with six hours to spare.

I sat back, confused and drained, unable to believe I’d done it.

I’d come up with a concept, written a novel, completed a content edit and line edit, and submitted something respectable (I hope) in four months and two weeks.

I gave myself a week off, wanting to distance myself from Jess and David a little, but I was only able to do so for a few days. By Wednesday, the new deadline was hanging over my head.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockEMBERS IN THE SEA has an even tighter deadline than the second book.

I had four months and two weeks to write book 2.

I have exactly four months to hand in book 3.

And I just wasted a few days “resting”.

So, after writing this, I will be starting book three.

Time to take a deep breath, and restart the clock…

.

Jess & David Double base BASE ONLY coverBecause the world just can’t seem to keep out of trouble without the help of a few teenagers. [Wink]

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_JenniFer____EatoN

My First Rejection Letter

Okay, it had to happen sooner or later. After three publications, I’ve finally received the inevitable “slap” of a rejection.  When I opened it and started reading, the email could have gone both ways, and then it slipped into…

“We are no longer able to reply to each query individually, but please be assured we consider every submission very carefully.  Unfortunately, your manuscript is not a good fit for us at this time.”

Okay, well, it was a “nice” rejection.  They didn’t say it stunk. They even asked to keep them in mind for my next project (yeah, it’s a form letter, but it was nice, and I will still keep them in mind.  They are a great publisher.)

But…

I understand what people talk about now.  Since this was an all-encompassing form letter, I have no idea WHY it was rejected.  In fact, I don’t even know if they got past the query.

***I don’t know***

Are they glutted with Paranormal Romance right now?  I don’t know.

Was the story too short? I don’t know.

Have they seen the plot before?  I don’t know.

Was in not “Romancy” enough? I don’t know.

Did they not see the value of it as a continuing series? I don’t know.

Did they laugh at my inadequacy? I don’t know.

Honestly, when I first read it, I was not disappointed, even though I was really interested in that publisher.  My reaction was more like.  “Oh, okay, I’ll just look somewhere else”

But then those questions above started sinking in. I started questioning myself.

After a little while though, I dusted myself off.  I like the story, and I have it out at a few other publishers as well.  Someone will like it.

But while I’m waiting, I don’t want my cute little egg sitting in one basket.  I’m actively seeking a few more publishers.  One that I’ve found, I actually think I like MORE that my first pick.

We’ll see how it goes.  No tears, no disappointment, just onward and upward.

It’s just the business, right?

How do you feel about “form” rejections?

JenniFer_EatonF

Why might you find me running around wearing sunglasses and a black suit?

Wouldn’t I look great in a sexy tailored black suit? Why would I need one?

It’s all part of the Official Release of “Make Believe”!

That’s right, baby.

You heard it.

I am officially a PUBLISHED AUTHOR.

So, do you want to hear more about that suit? Hop on over to Julie Reece’s blog to find out about my need for a fancy get-up as she hosts day-one of the Make Believe Blog tour.

Julie Reece’s blog

Don’t leave me hanging! Be sure to stop by.

First book signing !

I just came back from my first book signing for “Tall Tales and Short Stories”. Wow!

Thanks to everyone who came out. Overwhelming!

I had to pull my kids in– one made the sale and another piled up speed-signed copies and handed them out when it got too busy to handle one at a time.

I also got to read from “Connect the Dots”. I’ll report more another time and post pictures but I want to thank everyone again for making this such a huge success.

Next one this Thursday at 6:30 pm Audubon Library in Audubon NJ

Coolness abounds! :-)

–posted from my iPhone–

Oh No! Please tell me it’s not too late to fix that!

Cripes.  A typo.  Happens to everyone, right? But I just found one in the final edited version of “Connect the Dots” that I already signed off on weeks ago, and is due to release in eight days.

You know how I found it?  It’s really dumb.  I was calling up a random six sentences for Six Sentence Sunday.  I used an internet based randomizer, and dernit if that thing didn’t land right on the typo!

I stared at it three times.  No!  That’s not possible!  Am I looking at the wrong file?  No?  Oh, Crud!

I placed a panicked call to my publisher, who got back to me today with some valium a smile on her face and said they were able to catch it in time.

Whew!

Darlene is my new favorite person in the whole wide world!

Have you ever had a close call like that?

Road to Publication #25 – One week to Release Day – And the Reviews are in…. Deep Breath

I think I’ve mentioned that people have contacted me to say that they liked the story.  Yeah, that gave me the grins and giggles.  But the actual reviews have now started to pop up on Goodreads. (Amazon is not live until the actual release date.)

When I heard, my hands shook.  “Nope, not going to look.”  I was a wreck.  Then I got a nudge from a friend telling me that I should definitely look.

Here are the reviews of “Make Believe” so far on Goodreads… cutting out just the parts that mention Last Winter Red. Links are included in case you want to see the full review.

Brook – 4 Stars http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/459716333

Last Winter Red was probably my most favorite story. I am really into dystopian literature and this definitely had that underlying theme. I loved the world building that went on. And I liked the separation of the “classes” in the two different worlds, which is something you see in all dystopian novels. I could definitely see this story sprouting into a book or even a series. And I loved the twist to this story, it was one I was not expecting!

Jill – 4 Stars  http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/462048340

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton … was an interesting story. It reminded me a little of Brave New World. We have to civilizations living apart from each other both thinking the other is diseased and living a strange lifestyle. This follows a girl that is moving from one civilization to the other and the discoveries she makes about her life and herself. This is one of the top stories in the anthology.

Danielle Villano – 4 Stars http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/460337884

This was such a great premise for a story! “Last Winter Red” had a significant dystopian feel that was not present in the other pieces, and so it stands out in my mind. While Emily is a bit whiny as a main character, her personality is completely justified: her upbringing has her believing that she is entitled to a certain way of living, and a certain caliber of privilege. As she leaves the boundaries of the Red and enters the world of the Gray, she is faced with the fact that she is “different,” and not cut out for the hardened Gray lifestyle. The twist in this story was very well-done and I enjoyed it immensely.

Rachael Morgan – 4 Stars http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/442896275

MAKE BELIEVE is a magical collection of short stories. Just the right size for someone like me who falls into bed too late every night and doesn’t have much time (or energy) left to read! It was a pleasure to escape into so many diverse fantasy worlds, some completely different from our own, others familiar but with a dash of the paranormal. All the stories were well-written, but I think my favourite was LAST WINTER RED, followed by BIRTHRIGHT. Those two captured my attention the most, and kept me clicking through the pages when I should have been switching off my light and sleeping! Overall, an enjoyable escape from the real world. Fantasy-lovers should definitely check this one out.

Jen – At Random – 5 Stars http://lratrandom.blogspot.com/2012/11/make-believe-anthology.html      (Loved it overall and didn’t comments on any story specifically.

Aimee Lane – 5 Stars http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/327147561

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton 4/5
Another self-sacrifice story, but one mixed in with selfishness (on some people’s parts) and a totally different world in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic setting. I liked that this was totally different than the rest with its settings and purpose.

Sans – 5 Stars on Amazon

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton
This one is a kind of dystopian tale in that Terra is surrounded by a wall to keep out the “diseased”, the people inside are known as Reds. Reds are supposed to marry and have many children to increase the population as they all seem to die young. Outside the people are known as Grays, or vermin. The two are not supposed to mix ever. There’s a “red” doctor trying to help the grays and give them health care as they seem to be living to older ages and have age related ailments that need medical help. Emily is a Red besotted with the doctor who ferrys the doctor supplies from Terra to Outside. Emily’s husband died before they have children so she now needs to find a new husband and begin having children to contribute in Terra and be considered a good valued Red.
I enjoyed this as the dystopian genre is one of my favourites. I would also love
to read more about these characters too. Maybe this short story could be the
start of a series?  So I would give this story a 5/5 I want more!

Wow.  Ya gotta love that!  But I’m a realist, so I will now stop reading them again until someone nudges me.

This really helps me moving forward, though.  Maybe I should step out of my comfort zone more often!

How about you… have you had success with something that was far different from anything you’ve done before?

Road to Publication #24: – The tinglies are here, and I’m dreading when the slapping will start.

Yeah, this was supposed to post Monday.  I’m a delinquent.  I just can’t keep up right now.  Ever been there?

The funny thing is I almost went to bed without posting this one, too… and All I’ve done tonight is blog posts for guest appearances.  Funny–I forgot my own.

Back to the Road to Publication …. I just received another email from someone who’s read an Arc (Advance Reader Copy) of Make Believe.  They said that “Last Winter Red” was their favorite story “by far” and they wanted to do an interview with me.  Can I hear a squee?

Now, I am not vain enough to think that the other authors are not getting similar email responses to their own stories…. But this is the third response like this I’ve received, and it feels good.  So so so good.

But creeping in the back of my brain is knowledge that the day will eventually come where someone will pick up the Make Believe Anthology and love every story EXCEPT mine.

It’s inevitable, isn’t it?  Not every story will resonate with everyone.  I listen to other authors complain about reviews… and I’m trying to tell myself that I won’t read any reviews at all.

Ugh.  Maybe you guys can screen them for me and just tell me about the good ones?

I don’t know.  I’m pretty thick skinned, and I do not expect EVERYONE to like my story.  I really don’t.  I just hope when that dreaded day comes that they have a little mercy and chock it up to “this is not my cup of tea” rather than “this chic stinks beyond reason”.

How do you think you will react to your reviews?

For those of you who have gone through this already, how do you handle the good and the bad?

Road to Publication #23: – Never Ending Edits

Well, I submitted the Arcs, and like I thought, a few of the things I asked for were turned down. Basic mistakes like punctuation and spelling were all a no-brainers and fixed (I hope).

Wait — OMIGOSH!  I just looked at my countdown button and there are only 21 days left until I am officially published!  Holy freaking cow!

**Ahem** Sorry… Shaking off the freak out.  Back to business…

Okay… those final edits… Here’s what happened.

The Chapter Headers, which I wanted in Edwardian Font, were changed to an awkward Arial Bold that just made me cringe… So if you read it on kindle, imagine that being beautiful scrolling letters that make you feel like you are outside. Funny thing is, The PDF version looks fine, so it might be different depending on the E-reader.

I also was turned down on the Ellipses. I knew they would say no, because I am reading another one of J.Taylor Publishing’s novels now, and I found exactly the same problem in that novel.

In a closing ellipsis, JTP’s standard format is a space before and after… no-matter where it falls on the page. This means that if you have the sentence, “I tried to do it but …” the “…” could very well drop to the next line, and appear all by itself. To me, that completely ruins the mood of what you might be trying to do, but that is the publisher’s choice. They want all their novels in the same format. I need to understand and live with that.

One section of the book had part of the scene removed in editing, and I had to “bridge the gap” because it was obvious there was something missing. It was easy… just added a scenery sentence, but in doing so I accidentally repeated the word “eased” in two back to back sentences. They asked me what I wanted to do and I changed one “eased” to “settled”. Good catch JTP. Thanks!

Finally: A single word came in to play again. The editor had changed one word in a scene that I really liked. I tried to get my original word back, but they declined. The word that they choose just didn’t work for me, but after asking around for suggestions, I found another word that we could both agree upon and BAMO! Yay! We are finally done.

So, I guess they weren’t completely unending. They just felt that way for a little while.

The Arcs are now complete, and the next time I will see Last Winter Red it will be published as part of the Make Believe Anthology.

Ahhhh. Published. Sounds good, doesn’t it?