Tag Archives: Writers Resources

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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Pronouns. Tricky Little Suckers — Rule #30 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 #30

30: Pronouns are big trouble for such little words. The most useful piece of information I ever encountered on the little blighters was this: pronouns refer to the nearest matching noun backwards. For example: John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it. Well, that’s good news for Paul. If you travel backwards from ‘it’, you’ll see that John has stabbed Paul with the sheath! Observing this rule leads to much clearer writing.

Wow… This is a rule I’ve never heard before.  Yes, I’ve corrected manuscripts where they’ve made an error like this, and I’ve had similar errors corrected in my own work… but counting backwards lie that… I never even thought of this trick.

This is great advice!  Many times I’ve written something and wondered if it was confusing.  This like trick may help a lot!

Try this in your own manuscript and see if it catches any errors.

Jennifer___Eaton

Ok, so, I’ve been a delinquent

I know I haven’t been posting much lately.  I put insane deadlines on myself that no human could possible keep up with… and then I go and meet those deadlines.  But it does keep me writing, which at least is good.

So, What have you been up to?

I finished the first draft of my WIP, and then set it aside to spruce up the novel I am querying.  Then I took that baby out for a few pitches at a writer’s conference.

Have you ever been to a writer’s conference?  This was my first, and I must say it was a great experience.  I only wish that they duplicated some of the sessions, because many that I wanted to go to were running at the same time as others so I had to miss out.

It’s also great to talk to people in the business and get their perspectives on the industry.

Anyway, I think I learned a few things, and of course, once I get some time to digest, I will spit it all back out here for your enjoyment.  Yuck, that was a really gross visual, but hey, it works.

Anyone else been to a good conference lately?

_JenniFer____EatoN

Cut it out with those full sentances! — Rule #23 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 #23

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

Time for all the English teachers to cringe! But it’s true, right?  Do we speak in sentences?  Well, sometimes.  But there should be a good mix of full sentences and fragments.  Heck, even an incomplete thought here and there will help make the dialog seem more real.

And if you are not sure if it sounds real or not, read it out loud.  Even better… have someone else read it to you.  If it sounds weird with a voice attached, then you need a little re-write.

Jennifer___Eaton

Living up to your potential

Do you have a special gift and not use it? Why?

I think a lot of us do. I don’t draw. Well, I do, but I could have refined my talent and maybe found a way to do something with it. For a long time, I gave up writing. I just didn’t have time.

You know what?

It always felt like something was missing.

Now Available from Jennifer M. EatonOne of the things I’m discussing with Vanessa Chapman today is living up to your potential. It’s part of my blog tour for THE FIRST DAY OF THE NEW TOMORROW.

Vanessa’s interviews are always great fun. I hope you’ll stop over and say hello!

http://vanessa-chapman.com/2013/09/28/the-first-day-of-the-new-tomorrow/

But for now, what about you? What talent do you have that you leave dormant, hiding behind the scenes… and why don’t you set it free?

THEFIRSTDAYOFTHENEWTOMORROW-Banner

Don’t Dump on Me! Rule #17 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 #17

17: When writing a novel, start with your characters in action. Fill in any necessary backstory as you go along.

Everyone PLeeeeeese read that again.

Yes, I am an admitted action junkie, but I’m not asking you to explode something on your first page (although I have been guilty of doing this)

Buuuuuttt…  Your character should be doing SOMETHING when the story starts out… and even at the start of a chapter.  You need to grab your reader right from the first line.  That’s hard to do when nothing is happening, right?

Make it fast, make it clear, and grab your reader.  Make them want to read on.  You only have a page to make an impression.  Make it a good one.

Jennifer___Eaton

Related articles

Rule #16 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_NovelI’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 #16

16: Start scenes late and leave them early.

This is something that seems to come naturally to me, but I have seen people struggle with it.  This goes the same for “condensing” a dialog to make it appear like a longer conversation, but only giving the key points.

You don’t have to show the whole conversation from “hello” to “goodbye”.  It is completely acceptable to “fade out” once the important information has been relayed to the reader so you don’t have to bore them with the dull stuff that doesn’t matter.

The trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel like they have missed out on anything.

This is an art form, and the best way to learn it is to read, and read a lot.  While reading, flag the conversations that you really liked, and go back to them when you are done, and look at them out of context.

Why did they work for you?  Did the author convey unnecessary “fluff”? Did they get to the point and fade out?

Learn from what others have done, and try to work it into your own writing.

Remember:  Only the important info. Take the meat and leave the potatoes behind.

Jennifer___Eaton

Writers: Don’t worry about the Statistics

I came across this article that really hit home.

Why statistics discourage prospective writers

We all hear the statistics.  1 in 500… 1 in 5000… 100,000 novels are being queried right now.  They are all scary.  Many people are daunted by this.

This article points out something that I hadn’t thought of.  Think it over.  All of us have at least one friend who is querying thinking there novel is great, and they are getting rejected.  I talked to someone the other day doing this and the only other person whose read her novel is HER HUSBAND.  Really?  What are you thinking?

Now, if all of you count up their one or two friends who refuse to get beta readers, and are SURE they are geniuses without getting a lick of feedback… are you counting them up? Are you getting a mental picture?  Get my meaning?

This is what I am getting at.  So what if you and 499 other people query at the same time.  If 300 of these are sub-standard, your chances just increased, didn’t they?

If 50 of the remaining 100 had bad queries, or boring plots, your chances just increased, didn’t they?

What you have to ask is this… Are you destined for the slush pile, or are you one of then ten that the agent or publisher is actually going to read?

Make your choice now, and work hard to get yourself out of the slush pile, and onto that agent’s desk.

It’s my website’s second anniversary! Yay!

It’s my website’s second anniversary!

Yay1!

Wow.  Two years already.  Where has the time gone?  Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask for anything crazy like you guys writing a story with me, because a bunch of you are still doing that! (If anyone wants to join up, we’ve always happy to see new writers. Click here to join.)

Anyway… For this anniversary I’m setting a challenge for MYSELF instead.  I feel really behind now, because I took nearly two months to write a query and synopsis for Fire in the Woods.

Did you hear that??? TWO MONTHS.  I still want to smack myself in the head.

**That’s crazy**

It’s two months of trying to control my creative juices, and keeping down the new story idea that crept into my head. (I admit I did take two days to outline the idea so it would stop screaming at me to be written.)

Today, I am sitting down for the first time in months and digging back in to the work in progress that I had put on hiatus.  Optimal Red is a Dystopian novel for the New Adult market.  It is a Prequel to “Last Winter Red”, my first-ever published story in the “Make Believe” Anthology from last year.

Yep. I’m excited too.

I’m starting today with 14,000 already written words, and giving myself a challenge to finish the first draft by mid to late September.  It’s going to be tight, because Paper Wishes releases in three weeks (and yes, I am doing a full blog tour to support my baby – Cover should be ready soon!)

I still have final sign-offs to do on The First Day of the New Tomorrow (Which will release in September)  and a blog tour for that baby as well.  Yep, Mommy’s going to be busy.

But nothing will keep me from writing this time.  It’s what we do, right?  Although I’m incredibly anal and have plotted out how many words I need to write, and on which days… I look forward to getting back into my world, and my writing routine.  I missed it.

Who else out there needs a little kick in the butt to finish????

Race ya to the finish line!

Ready.  Set.  Go!

Happy writing!

_JenniFer____EatoN

Rule #11 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 #11

11: Avoid sounding ‘writerly’. Better to dirty up your prose. When you sound like a writer, your voice has crept in and authorial intrusion is always unwelcome. In the best writing, the author is invisible.

My take on this, is to not always be perfect.

I have to admit… I’ve started sentences with “and” and “but”.  Correct?  No, of course not.  So why do it?

VOICE.

Voice is very important, especially in first person. Your character is narrating the entire story.  Do YOU think in complete sentences?  No, of course not.

We need to write how it is believable.

I recently had an editor try to “correct” this paragraph of dialog:

“You’re pretty, and have nice legs, and beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it, but you can’t see all these great things because you’re always too hung up on wishing you had what everyone else does.”

They wanted me to change it to be grammatically correct.  Their suggested edit:

“You’re pretty, have nice legs, beautiful brown eyes, and an amazing smile if you’d ever use it…”

The reason I pushed back on this is because the character is very emotional and upset.  He is rattling off a list of things popping into his head (and not thinking at all what he is saying)  The editor’s suggested change made it sound like he was dictating a letter with no emotion at all.

Luckily, despite not being ‘correct’ – my dialog stayed.  It is more believable this way, and conveys ten times the emotion.

Have you ever had to defend your choice of “bad” grammar/style?

Click here to tweet: Write bad to write good. Rule #11 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton

_JenniFer____EatoN