sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Litmatch—agent search and submission tracking September 28, 2009

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LitMatch is a free service that helps writers find and secure an agent. Apart from the necessary ads in the right-hand column, the site is beautifully designed—crisp and clean looking. It’s dead easy to use, too. [Since writing this post, LitMatch has changed its name to Author Advance]

Tracking
For each novel, record the submissions you’ve made to agents. (You would not believe how easy it is to forget.)
Records: Day, agent, agency
Follow up info
End result

Agent search
Find an agent who represents your genre—LitMatch’s search feature could not be any easier.

Literary agencies and agents
LitMatch lists 1757 agents in 821 agencies. You can pull up any agency and find:
The list of agents
What they prefer to represent
All their contact info
Personal info/publishing experience
If they are currently open to submissions
If they accept e-mail submissions
If they accept postal submissions
A pie chart of the percentage of offers, requests, and rejections
Responses
Response times
Submission guidelines
Clients and projects represented
Comments

Agent blogs
Lists and links to all of the blogs agents have

Hotlist
When you find an agent or agency you like the look of, you can hotlist it, grading it out of five flames.

LitMatch blog
Talks about what LitMatch hopes to offer in the near future

I’ve just registered so I can track who I’ve sent my queries to. Hopefully you guys will find it just as helpful as I have.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Writing the synopsis September 24, 2009

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A synopsis is a short summary of a novel, movie, play, etc. Apparently there is a huge benefit to doing this—you get to examine your story and see if there are any holes in the plot, any developmental lack in the main characters, or any unbelievable occurences throughout the story. For me, it’s as comforting as dissecting a (dead) cat and laying the parts on a gurney for inspection. I mean, come on, who wants to take a beautiful story and rip it into little scientific shreds?

Editors do.

Agents do.

Why?
Because they are busy people. They can see in the first three paragraphs if your writing is worthy of their time. If they like it, they can look at your summary/synopsis and decide in seconds if the story is worth reading. Some do it the other way around—they check out the storyline first and then look at your writing. Either way, they need that synopsis.

How long does it need to be?
It varies. Usually the submission guidelines will let you know exactly how long it needs to be. Some agents like it to be one page long and unspaced, others prefer the longer version of about five to six spaced pages.

How do I know if they want a synopsis at all?
Read the guidelines!

Where do I begin?
Skim through your novel and highlight all the important, key parts of the story. Then put them all together to see if you can tell the story on one page. Don’t worry about the subplots, they just make things more interesting. You are focusing on the two (or three) main characters because they rule the story you are trying to tell. Don’t worry about the sentence flow or grammar at the moment, just read it through to see if it includes all the key points. This will be your rough draft.

I’m already overwhelmed.
We all feel that way. You just have to grit your teeth and get on with it, though.

Here is a good list of more tips for writing the short version. (Ignore the “don’t give too much away” comment. The agents wants to know the whole thing. They just don’t need the smaller details. You’re giving the overview.)

And here are two great examples of what you’re going for.

Once you feel that you have nailed the key points, make the sentences flow and try and fit in a little of your voice. Sometimes, because you are limited to one page, the summary can sound stilted and boring. See if you can take out any more smaller details so that you can add in some suspense or humor to it.

N.B. DO NOT SEND IT IN until you feel that it covers exactly what you want to say, the way you want to say it. I know, I understand, you are excited; BUT if you can curb your enthusiasm a few more days until you are delighted with it, chances are, the agents/editors will be too.

The long synopsis
What? This is even worse than dissecting a cat! I couldn’t agree more, but like I said, grit your teeth, and get on with it. The long synopsis is going to be the long summary of your novel. It should fill about three pages before you double space it. Some evil people might even ask for a ten to fifteen page synopsis. . . . (Just pretend you didn’t see that.) What you’ll need to have in there for both MC 1 & 2 are:

1. Opening/intro/hook

2. Who are they, what do they want, what’s your promise to the reader

3. Main goal throughout the story, what kicks them into gear, flaws/fears in action

4. Internal and external tension, conflict, and POV (point of view)

—Keep developing the plot in each MC

—More conflict

—Some redeeming powers to overcome conflict (repeat these three ad nauseum as plot builds)

5. Darkest moment

6. Break free/wow moment

7. Wrap it all up

Here is a great example of a longer plot synopsis from My Book Therapy with the whys added in.

Lisa Gardner has some tips for writing an even longer synopsis.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, if you need a break to go and laugh about summarizing your novel, visit angry alien. Hopefully you will be refreshed and inspired upon viewing. 🙂

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Make the most of your writing conference September 22, 2009

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I’ve been at the ACFW conference for the last few days. I went without expectations, and was duly impressed with what I saw. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of yours.

Packing list
Comfortable shoes
Clothes that meet the “relaxed professional” look
Notepad and pen
Laptop, power source
Business cards
Snacks
Water
Extra room in your luggage for all the books you’ll bring home

During the conference
Do advance research on the workshops offered.
Don’t miss a thing.
Get to your agent and editor appointments at least five minutes early.
Be ready to hand out your card to anyone who asks.
Chat to all the other writers—some of them have terrific advice.

Have ready to show editors and agents (only if they ask)
The first five pages of your novel/book (double spaced)
One-page synopsis of your novel/book
Writing samples
Bio page with all published credentials and social media activity

The editors and agents will usually only scan your papers to see if they want to work with you, and even then, most agents won’t ask for the full MS until they have read the first three chapters, which they will ask you to e-mail after the conference.

The best advice I can give you is this: If you have a completed novel you’ve pitched, and an agent or editor asked for more, send in the partial that’s been requested ASAP so that the agent does not forget you among the heap of other writers they showed an interest in.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Twilight Your Covers September 15, 2009

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 11:51 am
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Remake your favorite romance novel cover, only do it Twilight style.

Smartbitchestrashybooks has sent out the call. Despite only having twenty minutes left to be a participant in this contest, I couldn’t resist. Thanks to my (literally) insane photo-editing skills, I have turned Heathcliff into a dwarf-like, stumpy-legged, sparkly vampire who, now dead, can’t wait to sink his teeth into her, because that’s what true love looks like, right?

WHCover

I couldn’t leave ol’ Heathcliff in his workclothes, so I added the shiny touch of a Saturday-night-live red satin shirt and some tight black dancing pants. Vampires should have shiny clothes to go with their sparkly (not) personalities.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Writing air quotes September 11, 2009

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Quotation marks are used for speaking most of the time, but they are also used for the classic air quotes, an annoying habit if ever there was one. They are the poor man’s visual for quotation marks.

The problem when writing air quotes is this: Where do you put the period? The other problem is: Why the overkill?

Perhaps we are becoming wittier with our freedom of speech, perhaps we are just becoming more stupid, but no matter, quotation marks are used to separate “special” words from the rest of the flock. We can use them to be ironic, sarcastic, shocking, different, metaphoric, funny, and other things we come up with to get attention.


For example
I’m “thirsty,” said the vampire. (implying he wants blood)
You’re so “pretty.” (as in, a certain generic prettiness of the area)
I see you got some “sleep” last night. (implying you were up all night with your new boyfriend doing the business)

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), 15th edition calls them scare quotes in section 7.58. “Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense . . . They imply ‘This is not my term,’ or ‘This is not how the term is usually applied.’ Like any such device, scare quotes lose their force and irritate readers if overused.”

In section 7.59 it says: “A word or phrase preceeded by so-called should not be enclosed in quotation marks. The expression itself indicates irony or doubt.”

And in 7.60 “Phrases [that are] recognizable to the reader are often enclosed in quotation marks, with no source given [although more common expressions don’t usually require quotation marks].”


Here in the US, the quotation marks go in the same place they always go—after the comma or period.

And now, words of wisdom to the “wise.” Quit reading my drivel. Go get your “bad” self off the computer and do some writing. Your book “needs” you.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Writing the one-page synopsis, or not September 6, 2009

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 10:42 pm
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I want to share with you one of my favorite sites of all time, Angry Alien Productions, “The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre Library … in which a troupe of bunnies parodies a collection of movies by re-enacting them in 30 seconds, more or less.”

If there was any movie you never bothered to watch, you can get the whole thing in thirty funny seconds and no one will ever know the difference.
Watch Casablanca‘s sad love
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 

or some deliverance in The Exorcist
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 

or nerdy power in Napoleon Dynamite.
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 

It is all in your hands now. The classics of cinematography await your click.

Angryalien.com

P.S. If you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with writing, now and then you just need a good laugh, you know? For those of you having a hard time doing that, use these reenactments as an example of how to squeeze your masterpiece into a one-page synopsis.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

Do it all well September 2, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 9:54 am
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There is always a constant question in my head that I believe sweeps the same dirt into the heads of others: Am I doing everything I can?

A mother wants to recreate every touching moment she has seen on TV, a teacher wants his students to respond in the same way he saw the inner-city teens respond in a movie, a firefighter wants his marriage to be as strong as the one he read about, a kid wants to change the world the way she saw it happen on YouTube. We all have the deep desire inside us, not necessarily to make a difference, but to do all things well; and that’s where our problems lie, because we only have ourselves to do them.

As a writer, it’s not so much that I want to have my name known; it’s that I want people to have something open inside them to more when they read the noodle of words I put together. If I write a helpful article, I want others to feel inspired to run to try what I’ve just told them they can do. If I write a short story, I want its readers to laugh and have a better day, or to cry because I’ve finally hit the spot they couldn’t reach, or to think more deeply about how their lives affect others. I said above that I didn’t necessarily want to make a difference. I lied. I do, but I want to make a difference on the inside of private hearts, not in the outer glimmer and sheen of my life.

Wanting to do all things well can be overwhelming. I can have my checklist so long that it never gets done, even on a good writing day with no one else around. I lie in bed thinking about the number of words I could have written, how far ahead I’d be in my novel if I’d only gotten off Facebook earlier, what I’ll write about on my blog tomorrow.

So how can I fix myself?
The only thing I can do is try to copy the most perfect man ever so I have to ask myself What would Jesus do? Cliché, I know, but very practical.
Would he be on FaceBook? Absolutely! He loves people.
Would he write up his blog every two to three days to keep subscriptions and visitors coming? Dunno. He did go out every day to talk with people.
Would he have a target word count for his novel? I think he got other people to write for him. He was more of a story-teller. 😉
Would he lie awake at night feeling like he’d shortchanged himself and others? No, he got his to-do list in the morning and just did that for the rest of the day.

Jesus
Jesus lived in the moment and everyone thought he was perfect. Well, he was, but that’s neither here nor there for this discussion in my head. He enjoyed who he was; he enjoyed each person that came his way; he was ready for all the interruptions (even welcoming them as opportunities to love); and he had no worries about the next day, let alone the next year. He didn’t have a house. He had no income. He spoke his mind. He knew he had a lot to give.

Could my life be that way, too? What if I got up in the morning and made my list then? What if the only thing on it was to write my blog and the rest of the day was an adventure? What if I didn’t even have a list? Would I feel safe, secure in knowing that everything that should be done would get done? Would I end up loving others more once they were no longer mentally treated as an interruption to my list?

I think so, and I say that because I’ve tried it recently. Before I even get out of bed I ask what I should do first. Then I do it. I wait again and think about what to do after that. Then I do it. Surprisingly, much more has been done these days, and I have more time for people. I think it’s because I’m living in the moment instead of trying to be perfect.

 

 

Every piece of writing needs to be clear and precise. With microscope in hand, Inksnatcher’s writing and editing service will hone any work until it glitters in the light of a 1,000 watt bulb.

sallylogo3 INKSNATCHER.COM                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 
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