sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

A novel process—getting your novel published February 21, 2010

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 12:03 am
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A novel is written. So many hours over coffee and chocolate and excuses to not do housework. It’s quite the deal, really. I should write another one. 🙂 But then . . .

First edit
Storyline—Does it make sense? Does it flow?
Characters—Are they believable? Are they likeable?
Length—Is it the required length for the genre?
Plot—Does the suspense/tension build?

Second edit
Drivel—Are there sections of pointless rambling?
Writing—Is every word necessary?
Chapters—Does every chapter end with a hook?

Third edit
Spelling—Is everything spelled correctly?
Punctuation/grammar—Are all my sentences complete, my apostrophes in the right places, and my periods frequent enough?

Fourth edit
Find a few friends who
a) are not close enough to me to care about disappointing me?
b) are kind enough to read the manuscript at all?

Fifth edit
Make almost all the changes my knowledgeable friends suggested without muttering some Hogwarts, um . . . blessing over them.

Come up with a stunning paragraph that forces the agent/editor my manuscript will be sent to to stop popping caffeine pills and gasp in excitement.

Make every word about my manuscript dazzle like a disco ball.
Send in the darn thing.

And wait
And wait

Get mail
Receive a form rejection letter
or a really nice and encouraging, but still a rejection, message.

And that’s when it’s time to rewrite my novel or start another one.

Personally, I think that’s how Amy Tan came up with the title The Joy Luck Club. It describes the writer’s life to perfection.

P.S. I wanted to insert this photo so badly but couldn’t do it in a hurry. Check out the disco ball lady here!



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.

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Find a concept for your novel October 21, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 11:33 pm
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For my last novel and the one my mind is currently cooking up, I got the basic idea from quotes. Last time around, I found the following quote:

“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” ~ Blaise Pascal

I had spent some time around a friend who had once been a sniper, and he talked a lot about the secrecy and mental stress of the job. I then formed my novel around those two things. It’s called We Know the Truth and is currently with an agent. Here’s hoping!

Find the right quote
This time around (because of gearing up for NaNoWriMo), I went looking for the right quote again. My story begins with a girl who gets pregnant at seventeen and her mother is not impressed, to say the least. I specifically went in search of baby quotes and found a perfect quote that I can use part of as my title.

My basic concept is that the girl runs off to America with the aid of a rich man, but there are strings attached. Eventually she hears of her mother’s cancer and returns home to heal the relationship. This idea is still sorely lacking, though, because there is nothing to carry the story. I need a plot, a theme; novels based on daughters reuniting with their mothers don’t really sell in droves.

What if . . .
What if she falls for the older rich man? What if she still pines for her boyfriend? What if that boyfriend is a player? What if the child dies? What if she gives her up for adoption only to change her mind when the child is two because the father wants to marry her? What if the child is kidnapped? All these questions depend on which genre I want to write in, but no matter which one I choose, the reader must want to keep turning the pages to find out information.

What genre?
I could do some paranormal thing—she could discover a gift of mind reading and cause a lot of damage. Perhaps she gets into astral projection and visits her ex to torment him about impregnating her. I could make it a love story and a hunk of burning love shows up and she is in love in three days (although I hate the absurdness of that)l; I could take the suspense angle and have the child kidnapped, I could write Christian fiction and save them all in the process of love/suspense/paranormal activity.

What’s the goal?
So what if the child dies and the MC really loves kids and really wanted this baby once she was settled? What if the rich guy wants kids with her but she does not want them brought up by him? What if her biggest goal is to have kids and he is the chief antagonist to her having them? What if no publisher in the world will touch a novel with the chief goal of the protagonist being to have babies?

This, my friends, is the way a writer’s mind works. If you have any helpful suggestions that will turn me into a multi-millionaire, um, an inspiring writer, please let me know. 🙂 In the meantime, see what you can come up with based on quotes you find.

All the best with your own search for a concept and plot-driven theme.



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                                                                                                                                      





What Is NaNoWriMo? October 19, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 1:49 pm
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“National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.”

How do I sign up?
Fill in the details on this form.

How much does it cost?
NaNoWriMo is free to everyone BUT, naturally, these things cost money. Here is a list of expenses the NaNoWriMo team incurs, so even if you can only contribute five bucks, it will make a difference.

nano_09_blk_support_100x100_2What do I do once I’ve signed up?
Wait for the e-mail to confirm your participation.
Read the forums to get a feel of what the heck it’s all about.
With some writing friends (or on the forums) plot your novel.
Download a word count widget for your blog, forums signature, etc.
Add a web badge to any public web page you own.
And then what?
Start writing on November 1. You’ll need to write close to 2,000 words a day, but it doesn’t matter if all you write is total trash. All that matters is the word count, and the whole point of this exercise is not to write something perfect and stunning; it’s to just write. It’s an exceptionally good project for the perfectionists among us, and face it, most writers tend to lean on the side of perfectionism.

The time for editing and going over mistakes and dumb writing is not November; it’s after the first draft is complete. Most novelists never get beyond their first chapter because they keep going over and over and over the same few sentences. You may as well quit as a writer if that’s all you’re ever going to do. To be a writer you have to WRITE!

I took part in this in 2007, and I now have the results (after quite a few edits and rewrites) in the hands of an agent. It’s called We Know The Truth. I don’t know if I would have ever finished the first draft had it not been for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo_Flyer_thumbnail_0Some things you can expect if you participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo
A lot of time away from other daily activities and loved ones
Bad writing
Feeling like a total failure

Some good things you can expect
The beginnings of a finished novel
A sense of accomplishment
The thought that perhaps you can be a writer after all
A greater appreciation for your computer and writing software

The goal
To have a novel that is eventually good enough to submit to an agent or publishing house

If you’re under eighteen, and the thought of writing with a bunch of old fogies is a huge turn off, NaNoWriMo has a page just for you. It’s also a big help to teachers who would like to have their students go through the writing meat grinder, um, I mean, enjoy the delectable process of writing a novel.

I’d like to be more involved in this
If you’re one of those project-oriented people who loves to help the world, you can print off NaNoWriMo flyers and put them in bookstores.

If you’re the competitive type, you can check your area’s word count against those of other states or cities.

Take advantage of the discounts for Schrivener, Writer’s Digest Shop, and Alphasmart NEO that are available to NaNoWriMo participants.

Subscribe to the NaNoWriMo blog.

There is more fun to be found on the NaNoWriMo site, but rather than spoil it all for you, I’ll leave you to look around for yourself. Once the last day of November comes around, I hope to see many certificates posted on your sites for the world to see. It’s a huge accomplishment to be able to write 50,000 words of anything.

Carpe diem!



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                                                                                                                                      





How to find and list comparative fiction/non-fiction October 4, 2009

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A good book proposal includes a comparative fiction/non-fiction search. This is the part of the proposal where you list a number of books that sound as if they might cover the same story line or theme of your book. Here’s how to find those books:

Scour the bookstore shelves
Go to the section where your future book will stand. (Mine would go in the inspirational romantic suspense section. Fortunately, there are only about twelve feet of that genre in our local store.) One by one, look at the book jacket blurbs of all the books there. If a book contains any of the main keywords your book is about, and it seems to cover the same things your book does, jot down the name of the book.

Once back on your computer, go to a large online bookstore like Amazon and do a search for each of the books on your list. Look at the blurbs again, and cut and paste (into a new Word doc) all of the outlines that are closest to yours, along with the name, author, publishing house and pub. date.

Search the main online bookstores
Amazon and Barnes and Noble are probably the most well known. If your book is about how to parent in love, search for groups of keywords like “love, parents, parenting, kids,” etc. Again, find the books that seem to be most like yours and add the descriptions to your Word doc.

Now you are ready to make your list. Narrow it down to just one Word page of similar books and write them like this (without the pictures).

COMPARATIVE CATEGORY FICTION (Romantic suspense, Christian)

Dee Henderson, The Witness, Tyndale (2006). Amanda Griffin witnesses a multiple murder; Deputy Chief of Police Luke Granger befriends her. He fails to convince Amanda to come out of hiding, however. Three years later, Luke finds his interest in Amanda becoming more personal.

And The Guardian, (The O’Malley Series #2), Tyndale House Publishers, (2005). A judge has been gunned down, and someone wants to kill the only woman who saw the murder. Marcus’s heart gets a workout, too, as he finds himself charmed by the lovely speechwriter who witnessed the crime.

Irene Hannon, An Eye for An Eye, (Heroes of Quantico #2), Revell; (September 1, 2009) FBI Hostage Rescue Team member has a chance encounter with an old flame, Emily Lawson. But their reunion is cut short by a sniper. Now Mark must find the shooter before he tries to strike again. Can Mark put the pieces together, keep Emily safe, and rekindle a long-dead relationship at the same time?

Although the closest in story line, We Know the Truth finds the male MC tormented between his choice to run from his wife’s discovery v. protect her life. This is the one relationship his heart will not let him cut the ties to.
As you can see, I have added a comment under the second one to show how my novel is different. This is what the goal of your list is for—to show that you have come up with a new story line or new plot idea that is unlike anything else currently on the market.

When I did my own study, I was able to talk my husband into coming with me to the bookstore. It saved an aching arm and he found more comparative books than I did. I hope you can find some kind-hearted companion for your own search.

Good luck!



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                                                                                                                                      





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]

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
Response times
Submission guidelines
Clients and projects represented

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

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.

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
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                                                                                                                                      





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