Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

MONDAY MUSINGS: A 2014 REFLECTION December 22, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Publishing,writing — chasingthecrazies @ 8:51 am
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Every year between Christmas and New Year’s I take a break from blogging. For me, it’s a time to rejuvenate and reflect on the ups and downs of the year.


2014 had many highs and lows for me in both my personal and professional life. But no matter what happened in March, June, or September, my writing was always there to comfort me, challenge me, and coax me into pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. And let me tell you, writing historical fiction and New Adult was waaaaay beyond my comfort zone.


While I was considering what I wanted to share in this, my final post of the year, I came across an article about walking the path to success. What struck me as I read through each item is that many of these “secrets” can be applied to both writing and publishing. To illustrate the point, I’ve added my additional thoughts.


So as you plan your writing goals for next year, consider these thoughts and how they may help you accomplish all your dreams in 2015!






Stay true to your dreams. Consider all the positives when a negative gets tossed in your path.


Get a rejection? Send another query!






Put pen to paper and write down your specific goals, then decide how you’re going to achieve them.


Just starting? Maybe that goal can be writing a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Knee deep in the query trenches? Start planning and writing your next manuscript. Focus on the road ahead, not the tracks left behind.






Writing the words down is important, but without action, your dreams will never be achieved.


A blank page can be a frightening thing. Take a deep breath and place one word after the other. Before you know it you’ll have an entire chapter written!






Seek out new skills. READ BOOKS (!!!) Make your world larger by seeing and trying new things.


Every time you read, you’re learning. Interested in writing MG? Pick up a Middle Grade book to learn how important voice is. Want to create a stunning YA contemporary novel? Read some of the bestselling authors in the genre to see how their words inspire readers.






Success is a marathon not a sprint. NEVER GIVE UP!


Publishing is a slow business. Don’t focus on the queries or subs you have out. Plan and write your next book. It will save your sanity!






Analyze all the facts. Consider honest input. Learn from your mistakes.


The critiques you receive from trusted CPs and betas are gold. Read and absorb their comments so you can make your book a 1000x stronger!






It’s easy to get distracted on the road to success. Focus on what it will take to get you there.


Eyes on your own paper. Focus on your own dreams-not the accomplishments of other writers.






It’s easy to follow the most traveled road. Harder to carve out your own path.


Got an amazing idea for a YA Fantasy? Or a MG Magical Realism project buzzing in your head? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Write a story far different from others.


Think if Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy), Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys/Scorpio Races) or Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices) had been too afraid to share their work? We would’ve never been able to escape into those magical settings they created, and the world would be a poorer place for it.






Working on a single goal can sometimes be an isolating task. Don’t forget to interact with others. Seek guidance and support from people who are on the same path.


Pay your experience forward. Beta read for others. Offer thoughtful, yet helpful critiques. I promise you will learn something from the experience too.






If you’re not, then all the aforementioned thoughts are pointless.


The internet is forever. How you portray yourself to the publishing world is critical. If you’re always negative, or putting people down, that cynicism is turning away future readers.




And one last thought…



Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just getting started, don’t be afraid to reach out to the writing community. Build friendships. Encourage others going through the process. Support those who are struggling. Believe me, I speak from experience when I say my life has become richer and fuller in 2014 because of the friendships I’ve made in the writing community this year!


Many thanks again for stopping by and reading this blog. It means the world to me. I hope the holidays and the new year bring laughter, love, and light to you all!








QUITE THE QUERY: Caitlin Sinead and HEARTSICK December 19, 2014







If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Caitlin Sinead. This great query connected her with her agent, Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc.



Even as a senior in college, Quinn is not so good at understanding the difference between bacteria and viruses or explaining to smitten men that she’d really just prefer a dash of random hookups.


Quinn is good at other things. Like drinking wine in the Virginia college town’s civil war graveyard and crafting plucky modern dance routines. But these skills aren’t exactly useful when she wakes up one morning with purple eyes.


They don’t hurt. In fact, the condition seems to spur speedy healing. After a religious group attacks her—the eyes are evil, obviously—her bloody coughs and broken arms become mere memories within hours. However, as more students’ eyes shift to purple, the violence increases. It becomes painfully clear that the healing disease can’t save you from a five-story fall. Or decapitation.


Thing is, the religious group isn’t responsible for the rash of killings. A small town plus an unknown serial killer is bad, but it gets worse when a quarantine is added to the equation. Once there is no escape, Quinn realizes she can’t rely on “smarter people” to save her and her friends.


Fortunately, she has a theory. She just needs proof, which demands that she study scientific terminology and hone her deductive reasoning skills. And she will also have to try to work with the local cops. Even if the young lead detective just so happens to be one of those aforementioned smitten men.


Caitlin’s Query Tidbit:


As for a fun tidbit, I broke a good rule with this query. The first few sentences are just setting things up. It takes a while to get to the hook. That is usually not good, but I took a chance and tried to show off my voice more than the plot. This was based on feedback I got on my first book in which agents said I had a strong voice.


In the end, I got more requests with this query (and obviously an agent!) than with my first query, which starts with a clear, one-line pitch covering the main character, her goal, the stakes, and the antagonist force.


I still think it’s a really good idea to know and generally follow query and writing rules–and if this hadn’t done well, I would have revised it and played it safe–but sometimes a little breaking of the rules still works.







(Available February 16, 2015)





CaitlinCaitlin Sinead’s debut novel, Heartsick, will be published by Carina Press in 2015. She is represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc., and her writing has appeared in multiple publications including The Alarmist, The Binnacle, Crunchable, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. For more on Caitlin, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.








Query 101B



When I started this blog I had three goals:


1) Connect with other writers

2) Learn about the publishing business

3) Share what I’ve learned along the way


While I’ve always kept these goals in mind with each post, sometimes I veer off the path. I share personal stories or provide in-depth interviews, hoping they will inspire writers. One thing that came up as I began to post more frequently was the ups and downs I was experiencing during the query process.


As I limped through the trenches with my fellow writing comrades, I made many mistakes. Sending a query before it was ready. Addressing the query to the wrong agent (oops!). Spelling an agent’s name wrong (oops again!)  And even including bio info that had nothing to do with writing (an easy newbie mistake to make.) Once I got a firm handle on the process, I knew I wanted to share what I’d learned and QUERY 101 was born.


Below I’ve added the links for each and every post in the series. If you’re just starting the process or have more in-depth questions, I hope they can be answered here. If not, please leave me a note in the comments. I’m sure I, or one of my writing buds, can find an answer to your question.







After writing an amazing book, one of the most daunting tasks in publishing can be crafting a query. For beginning writers this task can seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to sum up your book in 1-2 paragraphs (which is mind-boggling), but you have to craft it in such a way to convey both the story and voice of your main character.


Before I connected with my agent, I was in the query trenches off and on for two years. I know how overwhelming (and scary) the process can be. There is a ton of information on the internet about how to craft a perfect query and people offering all kinds of advice. With this in mind, I decided to begin Query 101 to help make the process of writing, researching, and sending a query a little less daunting.


The series will have ten installments and will cover: query basics, researching the perfect agent for your project, handling that uncomfortable nudge, and much more.


I plan to post this series every other Friday (when possible). As always, I am open to helpful suggestions that will provide important information to writers who are planning to make the big jump into query trenches.


Here is a list of scheduled posts in the series:


1) Query Basics – Where Do I Begin?


2) Query Structure


3) The Body of a Query (Character, Conflict & Cost)


4) Research


5) The Personalization Quandary


6) A Thoughtful Strategy Before Hitting “Send”


7) Handling A Request/Manuscript Format


8) Nudging Etiquette


9) Handling “The Call” (Guest Post by Literary Agent Pooja Menon)


10) Dealing With Multiple Offers (Guest Post by MarcyKate Connolly)




First Five Frenzy with Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency December 12, 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, Jessica Watterson’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?


Jessica: It actually is pretty important for me. The opening line of your story is what sets the tone and tells me what to expect.  If it shocks me, I know the book isn’t going to be for everyone, but it will have this juicy story in the coming pages (I love those kinds of books though!) if it’s about the weather, it’s going to take me longer to get hooked. The first line of a book is like being introduced to a new person. You can tell a lot from just that first little interaction with them, just like you can tell a lot about a book from its first line.




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?


Jessica: Tree branches blowing in the wind, fog creating an ominous setting over a town/forest, also my least favorite, walking alone down a dark alleyway and a monster jumps out. Or just walking alone in a dark alleyway in general.




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?


Jessica: Strong characters, a plot that while is unique is still something that I can tell will be really successful with publishers, and obviously very engaging writing. I’ve had queries come in that I didn’t think I would click with based on the letter, but once I started reading I just knew that I needed to read more because the writing just captured me.




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


Jessica: The number one thing for me is too much back story and not letting the story just unfold. There’s plenty of time throughout the rest of your MS to give background, you don’t need to do it all in your first five pages in order to start telling the story that you want to tell. Just tell the reader the story, and give that background on a need to know basis.




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


Jessica: The number one thing for me is voice and characters. I’m obviously a huge character driven concept supporter, so when I’m introduced to just very vibrant characters, I will most often times need to read more! With that said, voice goes hand in hand with that.




JwattersonJESSICA WATTERSON is an agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

She graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in sociocultural anthropology and English. Jessica has made books a serious part of her life for many years. During college, she started an indie review blog that has featured author interviews and has reviewed several self-published books that eventually ended up on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Jessica is currently building her list and is most interested in all genres of romance. She greatly enjoys romance novels with strong characters that jump right off the page and a plot that stays with the reader long after the book has finished. She is also interested in select women’s fiction and young adult fiction. Her most recent sales include Melissa Brown’s two upcoming romance novels to Montlake Romance, Beth Ehemann’s Cranberry Inn series and an additional untitled book to Montlake Romance, as well.

Please note that Jessica is specifically not interested in: children’s books, middle grade, cookbooks, poetry, short stories, screenplays, self-help, or religious/spiritual books. For more on Jessica, follow her on Twitter (@JessWatterson).


If you’re interested in submitting to Jessica, please check the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency website for their guidelines.



It’s Back… 2015 Sun vs. Snow Contest! December 11, 2014



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Yes!! It’s time to think about the New Year and get those queries and first pages ready for Sun vs. Snow!


Michelle Hauck and I are absolutely thrilled to be able to bring you this contest again and it’s going to be better than ever this year!


Here are some brief details about the 2015 contest:


The submission window will open on January 26 at 4pm eastern and will only stay open until we have 200 entries!  Entries (Adult, NA, YA & MG only) will require your query and first 250 words. We will also be continuing the tradition of having contestants answer a fun winter-related question as part of the entry process. Selected entries will be posted February 2.


Instead of a mentor round this year, Michelle and I are each assembling  a team that will read the selected entries and provide feedback for the agent round. Contestants will have a few days to polish their entries and return before the agent round which runs from February 9-11.


Last, but not least…There are currently 12 14 AGENTS participating with a few perhaps jumping in to ninja later on! And let me tell you, it’s an amazing list this year!


So writers start polishing those entries and get excited because the cold, cold ice and warm sunny rays will soon be battling it out again!


Any questions? Tweet at Michelle (@Michelle4Laughs) or me (@atrueblood5) and use #sunvssnow.


Looking forward to seeing some great entries this year!







Blast From The Past Monday: What If You Never Get Published? December 8, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 7:04 am
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This December I’m looking back and sharing some of my favorite posts of 2014. One of the most personal posts I shared this year was about asking the question, “What If you Never Get Published?” I had such an overwhelming response to this post I wanted to share it again. I hope you enjoy!



On this blog I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of interviews. Some with literary agents, and even more with writers. When I interview writers I always try to mix up their questions. Include things that make each interview personal. While the questions may vary, there are always two I include. I ask about their time in the query trenches and if they ever thought about giving up on their writing dream.


One interview I did recently with Ava Jae stands out clearly in my mind. I asked her about getting discouraged, and giving up, and her powerful response has stayed with me ever since. Here it is:


“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.”


When I first read her reply I was stunned. I’d never thought about the possibility of not being published. Now, let me step back. I have been published (short stories, flash fiction etc.), but I’ve not been lucky enough to have a full length novel published (yet), and for me that is the total dream.


Over the past months I’ve had time to think about why Ava Jae’s reply stayed with me. And it comes down to this: Would I be okay with spending hours toiling over a manuscript with the knowledge that it may never see the light of day?


To be honest, for weeks after I published the interview this question haunted me. Here’s why: I love creating new worlds and breathing life into characters. When I write, I see each scene vividly in my  head, and I do my best to bring that to the page. Like most writers, when I’m in the throes of a fresh new story I eat, drink, and breathe these characters and hope I’m doing them justice. I’m not a fast-drafter. I have to really think through each scene and then go back and edit before moving forward. This means it takes me a long time to actually finish the story.


My most recent novel took five months to research and another eight months to write even before edits. I’m not going to lie, this manuscript has completely drained me–but in a good way. I’ve put my heart and soul into the story and feel like these characters need to be put into the capable hands of readers. But the question still remains, what if that never happens? Am I okay with shelving this manuscript and starting something new? If you had asked me this when I first published Ava Jae’s interview, I would have said, “no.” But in recent weeks I’ve come to this realization: as a writer, I don’t see I have another choice. The plot bunnies continue to pop into my head and I write them down in a notebook, hoping I’ll get to them one day. While I don’t know what my emotional state will be if, in fact, this current manuscript doesn’t find a home, I do know one thing for certain, I’ll keep writing. I may need to take some time away to lick my wounds, but I’ll always end up back at the keyboard because that’s what I do – create.


What about you? Do you continue to write even though it’s a possibility your manuscript may never be published? Is the creativity within you enough to fuel your work and keep you satisfied? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


QUITE THE QUERY: David Arnold and MOSQUITOLAND December 5, 2014




If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from David Arnold. This great query connected him with his agent, Dan Lazar of Writers House.



In my YA contemporary novel titled Mosquitoland, Mim moves from northern Ohio to Jackson, Mississippi, with her dad and new stepmom, Kathy. When Mim learns that her real mother is sick back in Cleveland, she steals Kathy’s savings and hops on a northbound Greyhound.


Brutally honest and habitually snarky, Mim has learned to live in almost total isolation. Enter Walt, a homeless boy with Down syndrome who lives in the woods off I-75. Walt—along with Beck Van Buren, a charming, heroically flawed traveling photographer—stir Mim’s spirit in new ways, challenging her to confront her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.


Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey in 72,000 words. Like Charlie (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Juno McGuff (Juno) before her, Mim sees the world through a kaleidoscopic lens. But can this lens protect her from solar retinopathy, psychosis, and creepy old men?




David’s query tidbit…


I don’t remember exactly how many drafts my query went through, but I can tell you I spent almost two months on it. And probably three or four rounds of revisions with my crit group. Once we landed in a good place, I spent a lot of time crafting it to each agent’s desired specifications.


One thing I’ll say — I’ve read a lot of queries that tend to fall into one of two camps: too heavy on the synopsis, or too light. I think finding that sweet spot–where you showcase just the right amount of book, just the right amount of voice, and just the right amount of person–should be the primary objective in query writing.






Available March 3, 2015



David ArnoldDavid Arnold is the author of MOSQUITOLAND (Viking/Penguin, 2015). Previous “jobs” include freelance musician/producer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And chips. He believes fiercely in chips. Davis is represented by Dan Lazar at Writers House. You can find him at and on Twitter @roofbeam.




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