Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Amy Elizabeth Bishop of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret April 21, 2017








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. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.


Today, I’m proud to share Amy Elizabeth Bishop’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.





Amy T.: 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?




Amy B.: The first line isn’t that important to me. I’m looking for the first few pages to really suck me in. Do I feel grounded as a reader in what’s going on? Do I have a good feel for the characters? Am I already engrossed in the plot or am I lost in a lot of backstory? Of course, a great first line is always going to draw me in and make me curious about what happens next, but I think how you open with your first chapter can often be even more important.





Amy T.: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?




Amy B.: This is a tough one, because a really good writer will take something I usually dislike and turn it on its head. Perhaps one thing I’d say to be careful of is to avoid opening with a huge chunk of reflection or commentary from the protagonist before getting into the action. We need some grounding in the beginning, but I want to see what’s going on, not be told.





Amy T.: 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?




Amy B.: They’ve set up the tension or the conflict of the novel well from the beginning pages and I feel comfortable as a reader. I feel like I know their character(s) pretty well, are invested in their futures, and I want to see what happens next.





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



Amy B.: Some common mistakes I see are overuse of exposition or dialogue (that balance can be tricky), waiting too long to get started with the conflict (i.e.: what’s driving the story), or too much explanation via backstory.





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



Amy B.: All of the above! I love a good voice-driven narrative. If it’s an unusual concept with good pacing, I’m sold. For me though, I’m always interested in the characters—if they have a voice that just leaps off the page, I’ll probably want to keep reading.




Amy Elizabeth Bishop joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret after interning at DG&B in 2014. Before diving into the world of publishing, she graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Creative Writing. She grew up in upstate New York and has now made the traitorous switch to downstate living. Reading-wise, she is interested in both commercial and upmarket women’s fiction, fiction from diverse authors, historical fiction (focusing on untold stories or well-known stories from a different perspective; think, minority voices), and contemporary YA. In terms of nonfiction, she’s on the hunt for a killer feminist voice and loves historical narrative non-fiction, as well as memoirs. Amy is also a poet (in her spare time) and is a reader for The Rumpus.



If you’re interested in submitting to Amy, please check the Dystel, Goderich & Bourret website for their submission guidelines.



Monday Musings: Plan A, B, C, D, etc… April 17, 2017







When you write your first book your dream is that it will sell. For many writers that dream does not come true. Most move on to writing another book, and then perhaps another, and one more until they finally achieve their dream.



This path is most common for writers. It’s rare to query and sell a first book. Let me repeat that – IT IS RARE TO QUERY AND SELL A FIRST BOOK. I share this because after one book many writers give up. The reasons for this are too many to list, but I think many give up because they believe one book is all they have in them. And let’s admit it, querying can take a lot out of you. The ups and down of requests and rejections can be a lot to bear at times.



I’ve been there plenty and I find solace in two things: my friends in the community who remind me day in and day out that I am NOT alone, and the chance to create something fresh. To breathe life into new settings and characters.



Write something new? You may say that sounds strange. Doesn’t writing a new book mean even more chance for rejection? Of course it does, but it’s also another chance to open new doors. Another shot at connecting with that agent or elusive editor you’ve been dying to work with.  It’s a Plan B, C, or even D when Plan A isn’t panning out the way you hoped it would.



You commonly hear the advice in many writing and publishing circles that  you should be writing something new while you’re querying or are on sub. This is true for several reasons. First, if you do connect with an agent, they’re going to ask if you’ve written other books. That editor who’s got your sub, might ask what else you have as a possible option book. Second, distracting yourself with a new manuscript helps take your mind off the stress of querying and/or being on submission, plus it forces you to stop refreshing your inbox every ten seconds! And let’s be honest, we are all VERY guilty of this. For me, it might be every five seconds (LOL!)



After doing this for five years, I’ve come to realize I’m strong enough to endure this business. It’s tough, and the waiting and rejection is incredibly difficult at times, but I do find comfort in having a backup plan. It allows me to focus on the next step, not the roadblocks and dead ends I feel like I’m facing.



So my advice for writers at any and all stages of the process is think about your next book, and perhaps the book after that. It’s only by moving forward that you can avoid getting stuck in the rut of loathing and self-doubt. And if you’re currently in that rut, it’s okay. Know that while you may not believe it now, you DO have that next book in you. It may not be ready to be written now, but it’s there, bubbling underneath the surface. Give it time to grow and blossom and then get to writing. There are people out their waiting to read your words and you CAN deliver!



Have a great week and I hope the words come quickly for all of you!










One of the greatest pleasures about writing this blog is the feedback I get from readers. It’s awesome to hear that the content shared helped a writer on their journey in some small way.



About a year ago, I was developing a query for a new book and an idea hit me. Wouldn’t it be nice to have writer friends share the successful queries that connected them with their agents? Those queries would not only help writers with format and delivery, but inspire them to push forward with their own publishing dream.



With a few emails, and some very generous writers, QUITE THE QUERY was born! As of today, there are 42 queries in the series spanning from Picture Books all the way to Adult. In and amongst them are even two New York Times Bestsellers!



My goal with this series is simple. Offer a resource for writers so the struggle to create their own query won’t be such a rough process.  My hope in 2017 is to double the number of queries currently posted. I can only accomplish that dream by spreading the word about this series, so readers, I’m asking for your help. If you know of a writer who has an amazing query, will you tell them about this series? Writers can reach me via this blog or @ me on Twitter.



I’m looking for all genres in Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books. I also have one graphic novel in the series and would love to add more.



My goal with this blog has always been to help writers. I hope that by adding to QUITE THE QUERY, many writers will find inspiration and write a successful query of their own!



Thanks for helping me spread the word and have a great weekend!





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