chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Tracy Marchini of BookEnds Literary Agency March 24, 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 Tracy Marchini’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?

 

 

Tracy: I ask for the first five pages with a query and will generally read past the first line in most samples, but it definitely does set the expectation/tone for what I’m about to read. A mediocre first line could be forgiven if it’s quickly followed by something engaging. But a cliché or terrible first line is much harder to overcome.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Tracy: Waking up in bed and having the character survey their room. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately, and what I worry about as a reader is that we’re about to see a character’s every move – from morning until nightfall – instead of a narrative arc that’s structured to show me only what’s necessary to further the story.

 

I found that I’ve also had trouble with the immediate breaking of the fourth wall, where the character turns to the reader and says, “Let me tell you my story.” I feel like this can occasionally be done well, but it’s very difficult to maintain that sort of tone throughout an entire novel. And as a fellow writer – I get it. I’ve definitely woken up and had a character ‘speak’ to me in that way. And I’ve written out what they were saying – who they were, what they didn’t like about their situation, what they wanted to fix, etc. These pages are important as a jumping off point, but I think you’ll find in revisions that they ultimately aren’t your first pages – and maybe aren’t final pages at all. They were the character study that propelled you into your draft.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Tracy: Usually, it’s a combination of voice and concept. I have to connect to their main character, to the writer’s voice, and to the story they’re about to tell.

 

This is part of why the industry is just so subjective. A concept that doesn’t grab me might grab another agent, and vice versa.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Tracy: While I do want to be brought into the action quickly, there are times where we meet the protagonist during a really intense scene – the character is trapped by a shadowy figure, or being held up at knifepoint, etc. But we don’t really know the character yet, so if it’s not extremely well written, it’s harder to care or connect to what’s happening to them.

 

I think world building is also tricky in the first five pages. Too much and you’re boring the reader, too little and it feels like your characters are just heads floating in space.

 

I would also pay attention to dialogue in terms of character development. When every character speaks in the same way, they all tend to blur together. Everybody doesn’t need a unique catch phrase or slang of their own (please no!) but further into the story we should be able to differentiate who is saying what just by how they say it.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Tracy: Pacing, structure, character development, etc. are all things that I can work with an author on, but finding your voice as a writer has to be done before an agent gets on board. So for me, the voice and concept are definitely the most important things I look for.

 

That’s not to say the other elements of craft can be ignored – the market is tough out there! But it’s much easier to teach an author how to say what they’d like, instead of trying to help them figure out what it is they have to say.

 

 

 

 

Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. Previous to joining BookEnds, she worked as a freelance editor, marketing manager, literary agent’s assistant and newspaper correspondent. She can be queried at https://querymanager.com/query/tmarchini.

 

As an author, Tracy’s debut picture book, Chicken Wants a Nap, is forthcoming from Creative Editions and is now available for pre-order. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

 

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Tracy, please follow the submission guidelines for BookEnds Literary Agency.

 

QUITE THE QUERY: LAURA RUECKERT AND A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN March 22, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 where 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 Laura Rueckert. This great query connected her with her agent, Zoe Sandler at ICM Partners.

 

 

 

 

I hope you’ll be interested in my YA Fantasy with Vietnamese and Maori-inspired elements.

 

 

When an assassin kills Princess Anh’s older sister Mai, her ghost is doomed to walk the earth. Blinding rage leads her to punish loved ones until the killer is brought to justice. Before anyone can track down the murderer, King Matewa, from a country far away, requests that seventeen-year-old Anh take her sister’s place as his betrothed.

 

 

Anh couldn’t be more torn. She’s never forgotten that breathtaking moment—back before her sister’s engagement—when the tattooed king’s laughing eyes had locked with hers. But due to dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, her chances of learning a new language are slim. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land, where she’d be unable to communicate.

 

 

Then Anh discovers evidence that Mai’s assassin came from Matewa’s country. Marrying the king would allow Anh to seek the murderer and release herself and her family from Mai’s spirit, whose thirst for blood mounts every day.

 

 

With a translator by her side, magical bracelets on her forearms, and a dagger strapped to her calf, she makes her way to the country of her sister’s assassin. But Anh hasn’t even reached her new home when the first attempt is made on her life. To save her family, Anh must find Mai’s killer…before he murders her too.

 

 

A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN is complete at 76K words and would appeal to fans of Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

 

 

 

 

Fun Tidbit:

I only sent a handful of this version of my query. Then I rewrote it. Just goes to show a query doesn’t have to be perfect—only good enough to make the agent interested in reading more. I also actually sent the query to a different agent which proves many of them really do share queries if they think someone else is a better fit!

 

 

 

 

Laura grew up in Michigan but dove into a whirlwind romance just after college, which meant moving to southern Germany without a job, but with a lot of love. She and her husband married a blink of an eye later, and they’ve now lived there happily for more years than seem possible. By day, Laura manages process and system projects, and she’s a mother of two. Nights and stolen daytime hours are devoted to living in her head: writing YA science fiction and fantasy novels. Laura is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and her work is represented by Zoe Sandler of ICM Partners. You can find her on Twitter (@LauraRueckert) or on her blog.

 

 

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY: Katie Bucklein and THE ELEGANCE OF TYRANNY March 15, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 where 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 Katie Bucklein. This great query connected her with her agent, Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

 

 

 

Nineteen-year-old Idrys Kendrik is a survivor of Idelle Realm, the kingdom where the Young God—a man of immortality and powerful magic—rose from the hells, bringing with him a reign of tyranny and monsters. He destroyed Idelle, forcing Idrys and six others to scatter into the night. Since that night sixteen years ago, he has swept across the world to conquer realms and turn them into his Fallen Thrones. A scarce few remain free.

 

 

When Idrys became a bootlegger, she was determined to forget the other survivors. Yet, after finding herself in the same city as Tristas—the renowned Northern Warden she hates for his cold and calculating heart—for a royal wedding, she realizes that dream cannot be a reality. And when the city is besieged by the heir to the Fallen Throne of Rethia, only Tristas and Idrys manage to escape.

 

 

Now, Idrys and Tristas must return to the Rethian city that haunts them, in hopes they can turn it from fallen to free. Instead, they walk into a trap: the walls of the city have succumbed to a curse, and no one can leave. If Tristas and Idrys hope to escape from this city of monsters and dark magic, they must work together to break the curse…if they don’t kill each other first.

 

 

Inspired by the board game Risk, THE ELEGANCE OF TYRANNY is a multi-POV Young Adult fantasy complete at 119,000 words with series potential. Set in a re-imagined Earth, the story follows a cunning bootlegger with a death wish, a Northern Warden famous in a hundred cities for his lies, and a princess struggling to lead in the midst of a siege. I believe it will appeal to readers of A CRIMINAL MAGIC by Lee Kelly, SHADOW & BONE by Leigh Bardugo, and MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson.

 

 

 

Fun tidbit:

 

Josh Adams is my second agent, whom I received a referral (due to his agency being closed to queries at the time) from one of his clients I met through mentoring Pitch Wars in the same year. I first got an exclusive R&R (revise and resubmit) from him, and after turning in the R&R (which allowed me to cut 15,000 words from the whopping 119,000 the manuscript sat at) he offered rep a couple days later. It’s often not recommended to take exclusive R&Rs, but I’m so, so glad I did–Josh has been a wonder to work with!

 

 

 

 

Katie Bucklein started writing at the age of twelve, when a girl challenged her to a dare: who could finish writing a novel first? Spoiler: Katie won, and has since written Young Adult contemporary, historical fiction, and dystopian, but found fantasy to be her true love. The middle child of five—two older brothers and two younger sisters—she grew up in Southern California, went to high school in Arizona, and now studies history at Idaho State University. When she’s not devouring a book, she spends her days researching stories of past civilizations and people, with an intention to one day become a real life Abigail Chase, and her nights holed up in her writing cave, fueled by music and insomnia. Katie is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary. For more info on Katie, check out her blog, or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

 

Monday Musings: A Writer’s Bill of Rights February 27, 2017

 

 

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It’s hard to believe, but in January of this year I celebrated my five year blogging anniversary! When I started posting, I wanted to share my ups and downs in publishing. What I learned as I went through the process. In those five years, I’ve used this blog to share agent insight into first pages, success stories from hardworking writers, and queries that pulled people out of the trenches. I’ve done all this in an effort to help educate writers about the ins and outs of publishing.

 

As of late, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about working with agents. What questions to ask during the call, expectations during submission, and handful of other important topics. Then I saw this post recently from literary agent, Janet Reid (aka Query Shark) and was convinced it was time for this post.

 

Below, I’ve drafted what I want to call a Writer’s Bill of Rights. This is a list of things that should be kept in mind when you move out of the query trenches and into a working relationship with an agent.

 

There’s a long period of time in writing when you simply focus on your story. You spend hours making sure your plot doesn’t have any holes, your characterization is thorough, and the pacing is spot on. It may take rounds upon rounds of drafts, revisions, and CP feedback before you get the story right.

 

Once it’s right, it’s time for the query trenches. This is only the first part of the publishing process and it rests firmly in your own hands. I’ve written many posts about how to approach querying. How the responsibility falls on your shoulders to do your research. To take the time to make it a thoughtful process, choosing only those agents who would be a good fit for your work.

 

At this point, you stay in the trenches until hopefully you connect with an agent. If, and when, that does happen, the responsibility again falls on you to ask the right questions to make sure you and the agent are on the same page in regards to your entire writing career. “The call” is a critical conversation because now the tables are turned. The agent is interested in you and your story. It’s on you to ask questions about the agent’s process in regards to edits, communication, and the submission period.

 

If you’ve done your due diligence, and you and the agent have the same philosophy on the future of your book, it’s time to sign. There are a ton of great agents out there, many of whom give up their nights and weekends to help their clients. But what happens if things don’t go as planned? If what you originally discussed with the agent never comes to fruition?

 

This leads me to the point of today’s post: A Writer’s Bill of Rights…

 

  1. You have the right to an open and honest communication with an agent. If you’ve done your job, then you and your agent should be on the same page as far as to how often you speak. Once a week. Once a month. Things will vary based on whether you’re submitting or working on a new project. Let’s be clear though, if you send an email you have a right to hear back within a reasonable period.

 

  1. You have the right to know how long edits will take. In your very first discussion, you should ask how long the agent expects you to work on revisions prior to submission. You can even ask if they have a submission period in mind so you know what type of deadline you’re working toward. This is incredibly important. I’ve heard many stories where someone signs and a year later they’re still working on edits. Be sure you know what kind of process the agent has in mind. Also, be aware that these timelines may shift – also a discussion you and your agent must have. It’s important to remember that when you send a manuscript out for submission you’ve only got one shot with that editor. The agent wants to make sure it is your best work.

 

  1. You have the right to fully be in the loop during the entire submission process. This means you and your agent discuss who is going to see your manuscript in the first, and subsequent, rounds. This conversation may also include how many houses you submit to first, as well as what the agent has in mind as far as reading deadlines. Some agents will tell editors they want to hear back by a certain date. Others will do a regular check-in with the editors. As the writer, you and your agent must be on the same page as to how this process works.

 

  1. You have the right to see your submission list. When your book first goes out, you should have a good idea of where it’s going. Many agents put this info into a spreadsheet with notes on when it was submitted, when first contact is made with an editor, and any follow-up calls.

 

  1. You have the right to regular check-ins. It’s not fair to expect that an agent is going to call you every day, or even every week, if there’s no movement on your submission. But, there should be some type of agreement as to when you will get a status update on where your manuscript stands with editors.

 

  1. You have the right to know about rejections. Most agents will ask if you want to see the editors feedback after a rejection. You should have a choice as to whether or not you see this information.

 

  1. You have the right to an open communication on new projects. In the “call” period, you should have already discussed with the potential agent what new ideas you are working on. This would also be the time to discuss writing in new categories or genres. The expectations should be clear on what you work on next. You also have the right to know about reading periods. In most cases, you are NOT the agent’s only client. You need to respect they are only one person with a limited period of reading time. Make sure you agree up front how you will communicate about new projects, and how long it will take them to read and get you feedback.

 

There is a certain give and take to the agent/writer relationship. Things will not always fall into place. Emergencies come up. Life gets in the way. Misunderstandings happen. As a writer, it is on you to be professional and respectful of the relationship. The longer you work with an agent, the more you begin to understand how they work, but this does not take away from what you are entitled to as part of the process. If you are ever concerned about how things are going with your agent, it falls on you to communicate with them. To discuss your expectations. It’s only through these honest conversations can you have a real partnership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Sun Vs. Snow Agent Round! February 8, 2017

 

 

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Today is the day our 21 amazing agents can begin reading the Team Sun entries and making requests. Not only will they see the amazing entries here, but they can also make requests for Team Snow over at Michelle Hauck’s blog!

 

 

As the agents move through the entries, please remember that contests are subjective. Our agents have a definitive idea of what they would like for their list. If they do not request, it DOES NOT mean the entry was not worthy. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep querying and NEVER GIVE UP!

 

 

Before Team Sun outshines Team Snow, here are some guidelines to remember:

 

 

There is no commenting in this round except for agents. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias.

 

 

We are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on Twitter under the #sunvssnow tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun! I hope to see my Team Sun members present and waving their pom poms! We have some blazing hot entries that are going to completely melt Team Snow!

 

 

Watch both my and Michelle’s Twitter feed as we will be tweeting when an agent makes an appearance!

 

 

Agents will consider entries at both the blogs regardless of whether they are Sun or Snow fans. Michelle and I are hoping the agents go crazy with the requests! There is amazing talent on both our teams!

 

 

Good luck to all! And get out the shades and SPF 50 because the heat is coming for Team Snow!

 

 

Welcome 2017 TEAM SUN writers!! January 31, 2017

 

 

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I’m very excited to share this post today and welcome a fabulous group of writers to TEAM SUN!

 

My choices are listed below by category in no particular order. If your entry was not selected, please remember we only had 32 spots for over 200 entries. This year by far was the most difficult for me. If you weren’t selected, it is NOT a reflection on the quality of your work.  Please go out and query. Many successful authors were plucked from the slush pile!

 

After you check out my picks, hop over to Michelle’s blog to see the list for TEAM SNOW!

 

 

And now what you’ve been waiting for…Team Sun!!

 

 

 

ADULT

 

Broken Promises: The Last Gift – Contemporary Romance

Loving Laney – Contemporary Romance

The Underappreciated Art of Not Dying – Women’s Fiction (Ownvoices)

 

 

 

MIDDLE GRADE

 

Jumping Fences – Contemporary

Your Favorite Mascot – Contemporary (Ownvoices)

The Sound Inside – Magical Realism

 

 

YOUNG ADULT

 

The Blood Blade – Fantasy

Mr. Frank’s Five – Contemporary

The Hollowed Heart – Sci-Fi (Ownvoices)

Salt – Fantasy

The Gemini Curse – Speculative

Ambiance of Lies – Thriller

The Badger Project – Speculative

Refuge – Psych Thriller

Soul Catchers – Paranormal

World I Woke Up To – Apocalyptic Thriller

 

 

 

If you’re part of TEAM SUN, CONGRATS!! Expect an email from your mentor soon. Your mentor will help you fine tune your entry privately all this week. Also, I want to stay in touch with each of my picks, so if we don’t already follow each other on Twitter, let’s fix that. My handle: @atrueblood5

 

Now for the important part:

 

Your final revised entry must be back to me no later than Sunday, February 5 at 3:00 pm EST. That’s so I have time to format the entries and have them ready to post for the agent round on Wednesday, February 8 (please don’t make me hunt you down!) Mail your revised entry to the contest email Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Please use the exact same format.

 

After that, it will be up to the agents to decide! Congrats and good luck to everyone!

 

 

SUN VS. SNOW SUBMISSION DAY!!! January 23, 2017

 

 

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Hooray! Hooray! The submission window for Sun versus Snow opens today at 4:00 pm EST!

 

 

 

Act fast. We will only be taking the first 200 entries. Please do not enter early or your entry will be deleted. You can resend at the proper time if this happens accidentally. Confirmation emails will be sent. If you don’t receive one, don’t resend. We don’t want duplicate entries. Please check with us on Twitter first to confirm your entry did or did not arrive, then you may resend. There is only ONE, yes that’s right, ONE entry per person allowed. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries being thrown out. This contest is only for finished and polished stories.

 

 

Important note: The story can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest in the last three months. This doesn’t mean twitter pitch events with hashtags, but multiple agent blog contests. 

 

 

Also, Michelle and I have decided not to accept picture books for this contest. Though we love picture books, Michelle holds special contests just for them. We do accept all MG, YA, NA and Adult genres, excluding erotica.

 

 

 

The Format:

 

Send submission to Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per person is allowed. It doesn’t matter if you write under different names or are submitting different manuscripts. You are still one person and get one entry.

 

Here’s how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn’t have Times New Roman. No worries if the email messes up your format. Yes, we will still read it! 🙂

 

(Here’s a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

 

Subject Line: SVS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre

(example: SVS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)

 

 

In The Email:

 

Title: MY FANTASTIC BOOK (yes, caps!)

Genre: YA dystopian Ownvoices (Age category and genre. New this year! Add “Ownvoices” here if it applies)

Word Count: XX,XXX (round to the nearest thousand)
Twitter Handle: (Optional so we can contact you. Will not be public.)
Is Your Main Character hot or cold?: 

Describe whether your character is hot or cold. Personalities differ. Is your character a person of volatile emotions or are they calm under pressure?

 

(Can be in your MC’s POV, but doesn’t have to be. 100 words or less.)

 

 

Query:

 

Query goes here! Include greeting and main paragraphs. Please leave out bio, closing, and word count + genre sentence. You may include comps if you’d like. There is no word count limit on the query but please aim for 250 – 300 words.

 

New this year! You may include if your story is OwnVoices up in the genre line. We really want diverse and talented writers and stripping out the bios sometimes leaves us in the dark. Ownvoices means the author is from the same marginalized group as the mc in the story. 

 

Remember a query has several paragraphs. Don’t send us a pitch.

 

 

First 250 words:

 

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence. But I will not go over 257 words. Be reasonable and don’t make us count. Don’t forget to space between paragraphs! No indents!

 

 

And now that the rules are out of the way, how about the fun stuff?!!

 

 

 

 

 

TWITTER PARTY!!!

 

 

 

Here are the suggested daily topics. But if you want to make up your own fun games on the hashtag #SunvsSnow then go right ahead! Just keep it clean and inclusive for all.

 

  1. Submission day! What genre and age category will you/did you enter? Show us a sun or snow picture from your neighborhood.

 

  1. It’s very important to read new books in your genre to get a sense of pacing and timing as well as style. What book in your genre have you read recently?

 

  1. Do you get more writing done when there’s sun (summer) or snow (winter)? When are you most productive?

 

  1. Do you have a writing goal for each day? How do you carve out time to write?

 

  1. Pantser or plotter or somewhere in between?

 

  1. Shout out a favorite line from the ms you entered.

 

  1. If you had to choose one goal for your writing career this year, what would it be?

 

  1. Beta readers and Critique Partners are important in the writing world. Where did you meet yours so others can check out those places?

 

  1. Final advice as before picks are announced on how you manage nerves during contests/querying?

 

 

Have fun! Mix and mingle! Make friends! Be active! Let’s have fun today!!

 

 

 
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