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W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Ava Jae April 23, 2014




I’m very excited today to share the writing journey of Ava Jae.  A while ago, I was lucky to read the first few chapters of her manuscript, SLAVE & SIRA, and was blown away by her writing.  Now I am thrilled to share her writing odyssey where she shares a few tidbits about her time in the query trenches before signing with her agent, Louise Fury.


Thanks to Ava Jae for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: First, you have an incredible blog, Writability. Do you find that posting regularly helps to hone your writing skills?


Ava Jae: Thank you so much! I definitely find that posting regularly has helped my writing—it really taught me that not only is it possible to write even when I don’t feel like it or don’t have ideas, but it’s possible to do so consistently and come out with halfway decent writing at the end. Or at least, halfway decent to me. :)



Amy: What inspires you to write both Young Adult and New Adult fiction?


Ava Jae: Well, I like to say in my bio that I love writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people, then I like to take their emotionally-ridden lives and basically destroy them. That’s a huge part of it—mostly, I just love the energy and excitement and the way that young people view the world, whether it’s teenagers going through puberty and dealing with new influences and hormones for the first time, or new adults trying to juggle new responsibilities, independence and what it actually means to be an adult. I also love the honesty in the voices of both YA and NA fiction as well as the quicker pace that tends to be prominent in YA & NA.



Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?


Ava Jae: I queried and trunked four manuscripts before writing SLAVE & SIRA, though one of those manuscripts I queried twice, so I’d been through the query trenches five times before querying the MS that landed me an agent. I also had five other full manuscripts in the drawer that I didn’t try to polish and query.



Amy: Did your query for SLAVE and SIRA come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Ava Jae: Ha ha ha ha ha. Does anyone write an easy query? If so, I could use some of their magic.


I can’t even tell you how many drafts the SLAVE & SIRA query went through, because I lost count. I posted the original version on WriteOnCon’s forums during their WriteOnCon 2013 event and if I remember correctly, I went through at least eight drafts just based off critiques from the forums. There may have been more.


After that I won a couple critiques from editors off Twitter and giveaways, so it went through several more drafts from those critiques. Then I also had CPs and other very nice people such as yourself look over it. Even after I started querying, I kept getting critiques and tweaking it—in fact, the query that eventually ended up in front of Louise was actually tweaked many times over after she had it, though she never saw those edits.


So…yeah. There were a lot of drafts. And ultimately, Louise saw the first 250 words of my manuscript before she saw my query. So.



Amy: Did you have critique partners for SLAVE and SIRA? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?


Ava Jae: Yes! I have several critique partners and many of them looked at SLAVE & SIRA—one of them even went through it twice. They helped me so ridiculously much. They pointed out plot holes, characters in need of development, places where I could boost the world building, and pointed out several things that were confusing, etc. I love my critique partners to death and they all have super valuable insight.



Amy: How many agents did you query for SLAVE and SIRA? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Ava Jae: I queried 25 agents total. I received a few quick responses, but mostly I had to wait. And wait. And try not to go crazy waiting. To give you an example, two of the queries I sent out in my very first batch at the beginning of September I didn’t hear back from until I sent my notice of offer in early December.



Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Louise Fury? How did you know she was a good fit for you?


Ava Jae: Before I had my Call experience, I’d often read online that writers said The Call was a blur afterward—and you know, they’re right. I was so hyped up on anxiety and excitement and more anxiety that only a couple things really stuck out to me (so thank goodness I took notes).


The two things I remember very clearly are as follows: firstly, Louise and Team Fury’s vision for my book was spot-on with what I wanted. All of her edit suggestions were so beyond perfect and she really got my manuscript. And that was pretty incredible.


The second thing was she was totally willing to let me write in multiple categories and genres, which was important to me, as I like to write both YA and NA and Fantasy and well as Sci-Fi, etc. Between those two elements, I knew she was going to be perfect for me.



Amy: You connected with Louise via an online writing contest. How important do you think contests are in getting noticed by an agent?


Ava Jae: Online contests to me are an extra opportunity to get your work in front of agents. They’re not more important than querying or less important than querying—they’re another way to get your foot in the door, and one that I think is definitely worth giving a try.


That being said, I applied to many writing contests and Twitter pitch fests and wasn’t picked once except in the Secret Agent contest that put my work in front of Louise, which has entries chosen randomly. So something important to remember, I think, is just because you don’t make it into a writing contest doesn’t mean your work isn’t any good.


Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Ava Jae: Hmm. Not exactly. I never considered giving up on writing altogether, because I love writing, and more than that, I love writing novels. But the thought had occurred to me that I may never get published, and that was something I had to come to terms with. It wasn’t easy, but once I accepted that it was a real possibility and I was actually okay with it, I was so much happier going forward. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been way disappointed (and hey, there’s still no guarantee I’ll be published so I can still say it’d be disappointing as hell), but in the end what makes me happy is writing, and living through my characters, and creating new worlds. I’m not published now and I’m perfectly happy, and to me, that’s what’s important.



Ava Jae is a writer, artist and movie lover represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. She writes NA and YA novels because she loves writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people. Then she likes to take their emotionally-ridden lives, rip them apart, and set them on fire. She also has an addiction to movies, but that’s another matter entirely. You can find her weekly musings on her blog Writability, follow her on Twitter and tumblr or like her Facebook page.




First Five Frenzy with Dr. Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency April 18, 2014

FFF SideWords



If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Uwe Stender’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.


Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Uwe: Very important, because it has to get my attention.  BUT: it’s only one sentence out of 75,000 words or so.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Uwe: My answer is: NONE, because if you are a great writer you should start with whatever you want to start with and then write a great novel!… And now, I want to apologize to all of you readers about the tangent I will embark on.


I often compare novels to music. So, let’s take the first sounds of a song as a comparison.  Listen to the classic opening of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes from 1963. Then listen to 1964′s “Don’t Worry Baby,” by The Beach Boys, then to 1976′s Billy Joel “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” then to 1985′s “Just Like Honey” by Jesus and Mary Chain, then to 2001′s “Eighties Fan” by Camera Obscura, then to 2011′s Lykke Liu’s “Sadness Is A Blessing,” then to 2012′s Joey Ramone “Party Line,” then to 2013′s “Never Wanna Know,” you get the idea once you listen to them…Essentially the same opening, but they all develop into totally different songs and each of the songs is equally wonderful to me…so don’t limit yourself, or exclude anything.



Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Uwe: The voice and the plot! Create a desire in me to want to read more.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Uwe: Many authors unleash too much backstory on the unsuspecting reader. Let the story, the plot, the characters develop and breathe.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Uwe: All of it, but mostly the voice. You can change and teach plot and pacing. Voice cannot be taught, it’s a gift. You have it or you don’t.




UweDr. Uwe Stender is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives).

His best known clients are actress Melody Thomas Scott, CNN HLN and TruTV’s In Session News Anchor Christi Paul, Eric Deggans,former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, 4 time Grammy Award winning composer Lalo Schifrin (“Mission Impossible”), Elizabeth LaBan, Stacy Tornio, and legendary NBA referee Bob Delaney.

Uwe was a guest speaker at several major conferences including the SCWC in San Diego, the Crimebake (Mystery Writers of America New England Chapter), the Writers’ League of Texas in Austin, Penn Writers, and he spoke on a panel at the Book Expo America in New York City.


If you’re interested in submitting to Uwe, please make sure to check the TriadaUS Literary Agency website for their guidelines.




Query 101 Series: Body Copy – Character, Conflict and Cost March 28, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:37 am
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One of the most daunting tasks of writing a query is having to compress the plot, characters, and conflict of your manuscript down to 2-3 paragraphs. I’ve interviewed many authors who have honestly revealed that this process was more aggravating at times than writing their entire book.


So how do you accurately depict your story, while adding character, conflict, cost (not to mention voice) so that an agent will want to request more? I could easily break down the construction of the pieces and parts, but I think a more effective way is to show you a successful example that worked.


With her permission, Mary Elizabeth Summer has agreed to let me share her query for, TRUST ME, I’M LYING (Delacorte Press – October, 2014). In my opinion, it is a perfect example of what the body of a query should look like.




Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name.


Boom! Right away you are intrigued. You know instantly the character is hiding something. Is it sinister? Is it for her own protection? As a reader, you want to know more.




She’s a grifter, a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at St. Agatha High. The downside of St. Agatha’s is that its private-school price tag is a bit higher than Julep’s father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, can afford.


Character is revealed, and we learn who Julep is and what her world looks like.


So Julep makes up the difference by running petty scams for her classmates, while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.


Stakes are revealed. What happens to Julep if her scams are discovered? We are already pulled into the story, and we haven’t even gotten to conflict yet.




But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and a missing dad, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care.


Conflict is revealed. It is clear and concise. We know who and what are at risk. Plus, the writer does a skillful job of weaving in the love interest.






With everything she has left at stake, Julep must tap all her resources and use every grift in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her.


This is a great sinker. It’s clear what Julep’s challenges are, and we, as the reader, understand everything she has to lose. Notice too, that we are left on a cliffhanger. Will Julep succeed in saving her dad? What about her future? All elements that have the reader, and hopefully an agent, asking the most important question: what happens next?



It’s true, writing the body of a query can be a monumental task. But the key in writing an effective one (as shown above) is to grab the reader from the beginning and never let go.


To recap, there are three key elements to remember:


  1. Who is your character? What makes them unique?
  2. What is the conflict? Is it clear? Does it intrigue the reader?
  3. Cost? What does the character stand to lose and how will that play out over the course of the story?



This is just one example of a query that works. The style, or approach, may not fit your manuscript, but it is a good structure to start with. If you’re curious about other queries that have been successful, I suggest you check out the following sites and blogs which provide a great sampling of other categories and genres.



Writer’s Digest: Successful Query Series

Kickass Writers Series on Gina Ciocca‘s Blog

Successful Query Series on EM Castellan‘s Blog







W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with EM Castellan March 26, 2014





I love sharing stories where authors have had a writing dream since they were very young. Maybe they started with poetry or a short story. Perhaps they’d written a novel filled with hopes and ideas from their childhood. Whatever the case, as they grew into adults they held onto that dream until it became a reality. Today’s featured author, EM Castellan, is one of these cases. Writing since 13, she recently signed with an agent for her YA Historical Fantasy, LILY IN THE SHADOWS, a dark tale set in London in the late nineteenth century. EM is proof that if you hold tight to your dreams, they CAN come true!



Many thanks to EM for sharing her story…




Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?


EM: In January 2010. I had been writing for many years (since I was 13) and very few people had read my stories. Then one of my friends asked me why I didn’t try to get published and after a few weeks pondering this, I started writing a YA Sci-Fi novel with the intent to get it published one day. A few months later I had a first draft and I began researching how to get this obvious masterpiece published. That’s when I realized things would likely take some more time!



Amy: You live in an English castle (which is beyond cool!) Are any of your experiences from living in the castle worked into your YA Historical Fantasy, LILY IN THE SHADOWS?


EM: No, actually. I have written stories set in a castle similar to the one I live in, but LILY isn’t one them. Instead LILY is set in Victorian London, which is such a wonderful setting! Having my story set in the capital also gave me a good excuse to go there often, “for research” of course.



Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish LILY IN THE SHADOWS?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?


EM: I did! My CPs Jessy Rubinkowski and Allie Schellong helped a great deal, as well as my 7 other beta readers. It took me nearly a year to write LILY, polish it, then rewrite it following several R&Rs. My CPs’ input was crucial during all this time, especially to make sure I kept true to the book I wanted to write.



Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?


EM: My query process wasn’t really frustrating. However, it was LONG. I started querying in late June 2013 and I signed with my agent in January 2014. That’s 6 months. I was querying “successfully” (i.e. getting requests, positive feedback and R&Rs), but the whole process took a long time.



Amy: How many agents did you query for LILY IN THE SHADOWS?


EM: LILY was the second manuscript I queried. As a result, I felt I knew what I was doing this time around, and after doing A LOT of research, I only queried agents who were specifically looking for YA Historical Fantasy. I queried 33 agents, I had 19 requests (including 13 full requests), 4 R&Rs and 2 offers of representation.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?


EM: I’ve read MANY posts by writers who signed with their agents only a couple of months after sending out their first query. Here I want to say it’s not necessarily the norm. After a slow start in the summer, I queried 22 agents at the same time in late August. I heard back from the majority of them within a month, which I thought was reasonably fast. What was interesting was that I either received rejections or full requests. I had very few partial requests. I’m mentioning this to show that a good query letter allows you to skip one querying step: agents either know straight away they want to read the whole story or they know it’s not for them. As a result of all those full requests, however, I then had to wait for the agents to read my manuscript. The quickest one took 1 week and the slowest one 4 months. Their average reading time was 10 weeks.



Amy: You entered a few contests with LILY IN THE SHADOWS. What did you learn from those experiences?


EM: I entered two contests in which LILY was a finalist: Christmas In July (organized by Michelle Krys and Ruth Lauren Steven) and Like A Virgin (organized by Kristina Perez and Rhiann Wynn-Nolet). Contests were a great way to polish my query and first page, as well as to “test the waters” with agents. I also took part in two Twitter Pitch Parties during which I got my request from Erin, who would end up offering representation a few months later.



Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Erin Niumata?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?


EM: Erin emailed to ask if I had time to talk on December 16, but with the holidays we only managed to speak on January 2nd. Which means I had 2 weeks to panic/flail/prepare before the Call actually happened. Erin did most of the talking and answered a lot of my questions before I asked them, which was a good sign. She seemed to have the same vision for my book and career as I had. I also liked the fact that Folio Literary Management has offices in the US and the UK. In short, I had a long list of Things I Expected From My Future Agent and Erin seemed to tick all the boxes.




Amy: What is one piece of writing advice you got early on that you still use today?


EM: I love this quote by Michelle Hodkin (author of the Mara Dyer trilogy): “The only secret to getting published? Keep at it.” I love it because we’re all plagued by self-doubt, but Michelle tells us we can all get traditionally published, as long as WE DON’T GIVE UP on our dream. I like the idea that hard work gets rewarded in the end. So there you have it. Keep at it.





EMCastellanEM Castellan is a writer of YA Fantasy novels. She lives in an English castle, travels extensively, reads voraciously, listens to music from bands few people have heard of and watches too many movies to count. In case you are wondering, she also has a full-time job, so she mostly writes at odd hours and drinks a lot of tea. She is represented by Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society as well as SCBWI British Isles. For more on EM, check out her her blog, Facebook,Twitter,Tumblr or Pinterest.



QUERY 101 Series: The Structure March 7, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:39 am
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In the first post in the Query 101 series, we talked about query basics. Today, we are going to talk specifics of structure: greeting, hook, book & cook.


Let’s start at the beginning:





1) Always begin with addressing the literary agent by name. Do not address your query as “Dear Agent.” Be courteous. Do your research and find out the correct spelling of the agent’s name.


2)  Address one agent at a time in the heading. There may be many people in that particular literary agency who take your category/genre, but each should get their own individual email or letter. The last things agents want to see is they are part of one long email chain.


note: Check submission guidelines. Some agencies ask that you query agents one at a time. Others have a policy that a “no” from one is a “no” from all. Make sure you respect the agency’s individual submission guidelines.





There is plenty of debate on the internet as to whether or not you need to personalize your query. Some say just get to the “meat” of your story. Others say personalization means you have researched the agent and know your manuscript would be a good fit for their list.


I stand firmly in the “personalization” camp. Now, that does not mean your greeting has to be flowery and over-the-top. Simply stating that you are familiar with their client list, mentioning a comment they made in an interview, or explaining that your manuscript would be a fit for their #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is enough.


After personalization, some people add title, category/genre and word count of their manuscript. Again, there is debate about where this information should go. Some say at the beginning. Others say leave it at the end. My advice is to put it where it flows best with your query. No matter where you place, it is MANDATORY you include this information as the agent needs to know they rep. your type of manuscript.





This  is the intriguing portion of your story. It’s a one-liner that pulls the agent in and encourages them to read on.


Some great examples of hooks from successful queries:




16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal.


Mindy McGinnis’ NOT A DROP TO DRINK:


Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond.


Mary Elizabeth Summer’s TRUST ME, I’M LYING:


Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name.





This is 4-6 sentences that summarizes your manuscript. It hints at the main plot, introduces your protagonist and antagonist. Your sinker (final line) leaves the agent wanting for more – but DOES NOT reveal the ending.


A few notes about “The Book”


- Try not to introduce more than 2-3 characters. More than that and the information gets confusing.


- Be specific about the stakes. Remember agent is looking for character, conflict, and cost.


- When possible, try to insert a touch of voice – this helps bring the story to life and gives agent an idea of what to expect in sample pages.


- Information should be written in third person, present tense. I would also highly recommend you stay away from gimmicks like beginning with a question or writing your query in the voice of your main character. I’ve talked to many agents who say this approach immediately turns them off.





This is your bio.  If you have publishing credits include them. If you have education or internships that are pertinent to creative writing or publishing, mention them. Writing contest wins? Include those too. If you don’t have any publishing credits, that is OK. Plenty of agents say they have signed debut authors without any publishing history. A simple line about who you are, and what you do, is fine.





Thank agent for their time. I would also use the space underneath signature to include info about your social media presence: website, Twitter handle, Facebook page etc.


This is merely a structured outline of a query. It is up to you as the writer to fill it in as you see fit. Whether you want to include voice, or a certain type of personalization, that is entirely up to you. The main thing is to keep it professional and one page. Follow submission guidelines, and agents will see you are not only serious about your book but about your writing career.



Monday Musings: Authors – I Got Your Back February 24, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing — chasingthecrazies @ 7:55 am
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It takes a lot of effort to be cruel.  To rev-up that anger inside and then spew it out all over the internet. Boy, I’m exhausted reading it all, aren’t you?


If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, I’ll only allude to the fact that in the last several weeks two writers have taken to the internet to say some pretty unkind things to their fellow authors. I’m not giving links or mentioning names. As a former PR manager, I know these people think any publicity is good publicity, and I’m not going to be a cog in that wheel.


Here’s my point:  STOP with the madness. Let’s support our fellow authors. Their success does not in any way take away anyone else’s glory. In my opinion, we should be creating a positive community where we all join together and buoy each other’s successes. Shout each other’s amazing sales and awards from the rooftops. By doing this, we create a community where authors feel welcome and supported.


It’s hard to be a creative type. We spend lots of time alone – outlining, plotting, writing, revising. On top of that, it’s takes a massive amount of courage to then share that art with the world. Why as a fellow author would you add to that anxiety by being unkind? I simply don’t get it.


I’m just one small author, and I’m not sure I can make a difference, but today I’m taking a stand to support my fellow writers. I hope you will join me in a year-long effort to stay positive. All my tweets, blog comments, interviews, and guest posts will have an encouraging bent. I will take every chance I have to lift up those who are down from rejection and promote those who have a cover reveal, book birthday or hopefully, hit the NYT Bestsellers list.


It’s almost cliché now to remind people what a small community publishing is – but it’s true. There are always going to be those who want to belittle someone else’s work, but I hope those people stay in the minority. If we as authors make an effort to drown out the negativity with our praise, I believe the writing community will become an even stronger place.


To start my year-long effort, I want to share the link for the cover reveal for Heidi Schulz’s forthcoming middle grade book, Hook’s Revenge. Just looking at it makes my heart happy!


Query 101 – The Basics: Where Do I Begin? February 21, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:49 am
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The Query 101 series begins today at a very basic level. As it progresses, I will get into more detail in regards to query structure, research, nudging etc. For now, I want to help those who need to start at the very first step on the path to publishing: learning about the query.



Congratulations! You’ve finished that amazing manuscript and you’re ready to send it to an agent.  What do you do next? Print it out, attach a handwritten note, and send via snail mail?




Do you find several agents via the internet, type a quick note, and then attach the manuscript file before sending?




There are several steps you need to go through before you send your manuscript to an agent. Let’s start at the very beginning with the query.



1) What is a query?


A query is a basic business letter you send to a literary agent or publisher. It describes your project, why you think it would be a good fit for them, and your writing qualifications if you have any.


Sounds simple, right? Well for some writers it can be. But for most, it takes hours/days/weeks to craft the perfect letter that describes your project with enough detail and voice that an agent will request more.



2) What does a query look like?


There are a couple of examples of great queries on the internet. My recommendation would be to check out the Successful Queries series from Writer’s Digest. The series shares a successful query and follows-up with commentary from the writer’s literary agent as to why it caught their eye. Another great link from Writer’s Digest is this article on “How to Write The Perfect Query Letter,” with commentary from former literary agent, Mary Kole.



3) Write the query


Now that you’ve seen good examples of queries, it’s time to write your own. Think about examples you read. What made them stand out? Did you immediately get a sense of the MC’s voice? Did you know the stakes right away? These are things to keep in mind when crafting your query.


One word of note: Queries should be written in third person, present tense. ALWAYS. Many people have tried to be crafty and write it from the POV of their character. Or they begin with a rhetorical question. Many, many agents I’ve talked to, and interviewed, request that writers stay away from this approach.



4) Get feedback on the query


This may be the most important step in your query process. While you think that first draft completely rocks, you need another set of eyes on that bad boy to be sure.


If you don’t have regular critique partners, I highly suggest going to one of these writing community websites and sharing your query. Feedback will help you discover if you are conveying your story clearly, and if it is enough to hook an agent.


QueryTracker – Query Forum


AgentQuery Connect


Absolute Write – Query Hell



Penning the tightest and most compelling query is hard work. You need to go through the process methodically, and obtain feedback whenever you can. Remember, the query is your first introduction to a literary agent. You’ve got one shot to impress them. Once that agent sends you a rejection, you have to cross them off your list and move on. It’s a daunting and terrifying thought, but if you put in the hard work, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!


Next time on Query 101: The Query Structure (Greeting, Category/Genre, Word Count, Body Copy & Bio)


New Adult State of Mind – A Guest Post By Chanel Cleeton February 17, 2014

Filed under: Blog,New Adult,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:04 am
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New Adult is a writing category that is slowing building momentum in the publishing marketplace. With the success of Cora Carmack’s, LOSING IT series, and other writers like Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, starting to pen books with New Adult themes, agents and publishers are starting to take notice of what these stories can offer to a reading audience that is constantly hungering for new ideas.


Today, I’ve asked author, Chanel Cleeton, to share her thoughts on this evolving category, and what it means to actually write New Adult.




Getting to a New Adult State of Mind

By Chanel Cleeton

I see london



Writing New Adult is all about capturing the spirit of being eighteen to twenty-six years old. This time in your life is a huge transitional period—you’re facing new adventures like finding your way in the world, starting a career, falling in love, and leaving home. New Adult is also about juggling the responsibilities of adulthood without having the experience or complete confidence you may need to face the challenges thrown your way. As a writer you want to convey this spirit to your readers—creating relatable characters and situations. I find that personal experience is one of the best tools you can utilize when writing New Adult.


For me, at twenty-eight, my New Adult years are a very recent memory. I draw a lot on personal experiences and my friends’ experiences. I find that this brings authenticity to my characters. For example, in one of the scenes in I SEE LONDON, my heroine talks about changing the assigned ringtone for a certain guy in her cell phone so she’ll know when he calls. It’s a little thing but something I totally did when I was single. I’ve had readers comment on it because they’ve done the same. Putting realistic details and emotions in your book goes a long way to connecting with your readers and making your characters authentic.


If you’re interested in writing New Adult, real life is a great source of inspiration. Even if your New Adult years were a while ago, still think back and remember how you felt during those years. Think about the challenges you faced, adventures you had, and changes you went through. Think of pieces of your past and experiences that you can put into your characters. If you’re around teens or twentysomethings, they are also a wonderful resource.


Another step to adopting a New Adult mindset is to read widely within the category. Books like Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, are all staples. Reading these books will give you a sense of the category’s origins. That said—New Adult isn’t just about contemporary romance. The category is developing and evolving over time and the New Adult spirit is prevalent whether you’re writing dystopian or contemporary.


Popular culture can also be an excellent inspiration for writing New Adult. Shows like Girls, Felicity, Vanderpump Rules, Ugly Betty, later seasons of Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill, are all representative of the New Adult spirit. Movies like 21, Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde, and The Social Network also depict the challenges and adventures of life as a twentysomething. Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour are also great resources—especially the sections that include reader input.


Honestly, writing New Adult can be challenging and a little scary. As a writer, it can push you outside of your comfort zone. The current market is pretty sexy. That doesn’t mean you have to write steamy New Adult stories—I firmly believe that there is room for all heat levels. If you want to—great. If you’re uncomfortable—find what works for you. I wrote Young Adult before switching to New Adult and it was a challenge for me to feel comfortable writing sexy scenes that weren’t the fade-to-black that we so often see in younger stories. But in my case, an increased heat level fit my characters, and I went for it because it was the best thing for the story. That said, it’s still not as hot as some New Adult books and that’s okay.


There are many ways to capture the New Adult voice and it all goes back to the need for diversity within the category. There’s room to write different types of characters with different backgrounds and experiences. There’s room for hot stories and sweet stories, room for contemporary and other genres. New Adult is rich in possibilities and you have to find the story you want to tell. Don’t be afraid to write New Adult because you don’t think you fit the current market. Make your own path.


Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to finding your New Adult voice. While the New Adult spirit is about change and transition, there is a lot of room for diversity within the category. We need diversity to grow and appeal to readers across a broader spectrum. If you’re interested in writing New Adult, I highly recommend reading some of the books that define the category and immersing yourself in the lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you can’t write something totally different, but it’s important to understand the foundation. At the end of the day, the key to writing New Adult is creating a story and characters that will resonate with readers. I hope you fall in love with New Adult as much as I have!



ChanelChanel Cleeton’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, Chanel is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel loves to travel and is currently living an adventure in South Korea. For more on Chanel, check out her website, follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.


FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Lara Perkins of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency February 14, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:38 am
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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Lara Perkins’ perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.



Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Lara: For me, the first line is very important. Like any reader, I want to be drawn in to a new story and a great first line does exactly that. A strong first line suggests a writer is in control of language and in control of his or her story. If the first line is great, then I’m also probably seeing the manuscript after it’s been revised and polished, which tells me the writer is serious about craft and has a professional approach. That doesn’t mean the first line can’t be improved further or even rethought (or sometimes even lifted from later in the ms), but I think it’s a missed opportunity if your first line doesn’t have some punch, some tension, and some suspense.



Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Lara: I think it’s less about avoiding common openings and more about finding a beginning that’s truly unique to your story. The problem with these common openings is that they’re usually placeholders. The writer isn’t sure where to begin, so he or she begins somewhere familiar…but it’s not really the beginning of the specific story he or she is telling. My advice to writers would be that if your story can only logically and thematically begin with a dream, and the dream scene you’ve written is riveting and fresh (to other readers, not just to you!), then for my money, go ahead and begin that way. It likely won’t read like a “common opening” because it will actually be unique and integral/specific to your story. But if you don’t know where to start and you figure, well, The Hunger Games begins with Katniss waking up, so I’ll begin with my main character waking up, too, then I’d encourage you to go deeper and think more about the true, organic beginning of your story.



Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Lara: It’s a combination of a character I want to know more about, writing that speaks to me, and a premise that seems big enough, interesting enough, and different enough to sustain an entire book.



Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Lara: I think one common mistake is beginning with action but no context or character development, so the plot is moving forward, but the reader doesn’t have a reason to be invested in the outcome. Another common mistake is beginning in a moment of great loss for your main character, but without enough context for the reader to feel the power of that loss and share the main character’s grief. As a result, we’re at a distance from the main character immediately.  Another common mistake is a first chapter that stays entirely in the narrator’s head–with no dialogue, no action, etc. Except in rare cases, that gets claustrophobic very quickly.



Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Lara: Voice, primarily, with pacing a close second. If there are already pacing problems in the first five pages, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the story. But if I’m not connecting with the voice, then it’s probably not the right project for me.



Lara Perkins is an Associate Agent and Digital Manager at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She has been with the agency for three years, working closely with Senior Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian Brit Lit. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion.


If you’re interested in submitting to Lara, please make sure to check the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for their guidelines.


TWO YEAR BLOGAVERSARY!!! January 28, 2014





Yep, I’m shaking my booty just like Dean Winchester! Why? Two years of blogging! That’s why!


Wow! How did it go by so fast? It all seems a blur of amazing interviews, guest posts and great advice from agents!


Quite honestly, I don’t know how I made it this far, but I am incredibly grateful to all the people who signed up to read what I post three times a week. You are amazing and I would not have made it this far if you all hadn’t left me kind comments and shared how my posts have helped you with your own writing.


Now, there can never be a celebration without gifts right?


Leave me a comment about your favorite blog post and I will enter you into a drawing for books, gift cards and maybe even a surprise or two!


Again, many thanks for your support! I’ll keep trying to provide honest, thoughtful posts as well as bring you enlightening author interviews and important advice from agents!


And one more Supernatural gif because I’m pretty happy, and well…it’s Supernatural…







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