chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

QUITE THE QUERY: GAIL NALL & BREAKING THE ICE February 27, 2015

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

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 Gail Nall. This great query connected her with her agent, Julia A. Weber.

 

 

Twelve-year-old Chloe Demirjian-Carter dreams of being a champion figure skater. She practices every day and does everything she’s supposed to do. But when the judges award her perfect program with less-than-perfect scores, Chloe lets them know exactly what she thinks.

 

 

As a result, Chloe’s coach dumps her and she’s kicked out of her prestigious training rink. No one wants a skater with a big mouth – no one except the misfit Fallton Figure Skating Club. But joining Fallton may be the second-biggest mistake Chloe’s ever made. No one takes skaters from the “Fall Down” club seriously. If Chloe wants to win the Regional competition, she has to find a way to change the judges’ minds about her new club. Which wouldn’t be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.

 

 

A middle grade novel complete at 50,000 words, DON’T FALL DOWN is a cross between Kate Messner’s SUGAR AND ICE and the movie Stick It.

 

 

 

Query Tidbit:

 

 

I still had some queries and fulls out on a previous manuscript when I started querying BREAKING THE ICE (formerly DON’T FALL DOWN). So when I got the offer from Julia (who’d actually read both mss) and sent out my nudge emails, I had to remember which agent had which manuscript! I did some serious spreadsheeting to keep track of it. :)

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Ice

 

Available now via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iBooks.

 

 

 

 

Gail NallGail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. When she’s not writing books, she manages grants for a homeless shelter and chases her toddler. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the BREAKING THE ICE  and co-author of the RSVP books (Aladdin/S&S) with Jen Malone, the first of which will be out in May 2015. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, and on Goodreads.

 

 

Behind The Curtain: All About An Acquisitions Editor February 25, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Guest Post,Publishing,writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:59 am
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Today, Vicki Merkiel is helping me “pull back the curtain” on an important role in the publishing world: Acquisitions Editor. In her own words, Vicki shares her role and responsibilities in looking for new talent and manuscripts for publisher, Curiosity Quills. As you will see, this is not work for the faint of heart. Not only must you love reading, but have a keen sense of what will stand out in the marketplace.

 

Many thanks to Vicki for sharing her insights today…

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of An Acquisitions Editor

By Vicki Merkiel 

 

 

It was in November 2013 that I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills for CATCH ME WHEN I FALL. As a debut author, I didn’t know what to expect from a publishing house. But their entire team blew me away; they fight so hard to ensure every author reaches his/her potential. So, I knew that if I wanted to continue a career in the publishing industry (outside of writing books), Curiosity Quills would be a great place to start.

 

 

Since then, I’ve taken on a few different roles within the CQ family. I started in March 2014 as a copyeditor, then moved into an editor role, and then began beta reading for their acquisitions team. Finally, at the end of December 2014, I took on my current role an acquisitions editor.

 

 

With a month of experience under my belt now, I can definitely say the position has been all I’d hoped it would be—yet not as glamorous. Being an acquisitions editor is hard work. We sift through the queries that come in, finding those manuscripts that have potential based off their first few pages, and then when the authors/agents send in the full manuscripts, we have to dedicate time to reading them. And not only do I read the manuscripts that come directly to my inbox; I’m also sent manuscripts from our general inbox when my bosses feel it’s something I might enjoy. It’s a good thing I love to read, because the AE position is every time consuming!

 

 

I, personally, split my full submissions into three groups: (1) Manuscripts where I know I won’t ask for an R&R; (2) Manuscripts where there’s enough potential for an R&R; (3) Manuscripts I feel are ready for publication (or will be ready after a strong round of editing).

 

 

For any manuscript that falls into category #3, I draft a pitch and approach my bosses about acquiring. If they agree that it’s right for our current catalog, they will send me a contract for that book. I then reach out to the author/agent with the contract and negotiate the deal. If the author decides to sign, yay! If they want changes, I talk with my bosses. If my bosses agree to the changes, we then send a revised contract. If they don’t agree, then it’s a lot of back and forth with the author/agent to determine whether a relationship would be beneficial for both sides. And if the author decides not to sign, then we make sad faces.

 

 

If any manuscript falls into category #2, I will send the author a request for an R&R only if I feel I can pitch the manuscript to my bosses after a significant rewrite. In these cases, if the author is willing to do an R&R, I typically go through the manuscript and leave in-depth notes about what I feel needs to change. I then send the manuscript back to the author, with my notes, and wait to see the revised version. If the revised version is strong, I move them to category #3 and reach out for approval to acquire. But if the revised version still isn’t strong enough, I, unfortunately, have to pass.

 

 

Finally, it doesn’t take me long to tell if a manuscript falls into category #1. Those manuscripts are the ones that I feel need so much editing that the author would benefit from more practice, in general. In these cases, I can usually tell by page fifty, and I rarely finish these manuscripts. (I have so many other things I have to read!) With the books that fall into category #1, I will send a kind email to the author, suggesting how I think they can improve, and request they send new material in the future.

 

 

So far, I’ve acquired one manuscript, have requested to acquire two more, have requested three R&Rs, and have passed on several. I make a point every day to check my email for new queries that come in and respond to each, and then I dive into reading the manuscript submissions. I prioritize based on: when the submission came in, whether they’re agented, and if I have any other deadlines to meet (ex: editing a contracted manuscript). I do give myself two days off every week to unravel my brain (those days vary), and my working days are typically eight hours long.

 

 

But though my job is very time-consuming, it’s always a thrill when I read a really great manuscript. Finding those gems is so worth the time spent looking for them, and I especially like making authors’ dreams come true. And when I think about all the readers who will enjoy the books I discover…yeah, all the effort I expend is so totally worth it.

 

 

 

 

Vicki Leigh_Author Portrait copyAdopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Merkiel grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. She writes Young Adult novels under her pen name, Vicki Leigh, and if she couldn’t work with novels, she would be a Hunter (think Dean and Sam Winchester) or a Jedi. Her favorite place on earth is Hogwarts (she refuses to believe it doesn’t exist), and her favorite dreams include solving cases alongside Sherlock Holmes. Her YA debut, Catch Me When I Fall, released October 23, 2014.

 

You can find her at her website or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.

 

 

Monday Musings: Filtered Out February 23, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:28 am
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Back in November, Wendy Higgins (author of the Sweet Trilogy) wrote a blog post titled, “My Unfortunate Writing Side Effect.” In the post she shared how being a writer made it hard to read for pleasure. Instead of letting a book captivate her, she found herself wanting “to change lines or cross out words.” The post struck me because lately I’ve been feeling the same way. The cause of my reading slump? Filter words.

 

 

When I first started seriously writing I had no clue what filters were. I wrote characters seeing and feeling things in a very mundane way. I was new. I thought this was the way you were supposed to write. Then I got my first critique. It was a bloody slaughter. While the writer was kind in their presentation, their message was clear – your writing needs help. My biggest problem? My use of filter words. Everywhere.

 

 

If you’re new to writing you may ask, “What is a filter?” Let me share by using some examples from my early writing:

 

 

“I noticed he had blue eyes and dark hair.”

 

 

“I watched as he removed the shovel from the ground.”

 

 

See a pattern? Filters direct the reader to see what the character is doing instead of allowing the reader to infer what is happening. With filters you are essentially saying, “Hey reader, take note. I’m now going to tell you what the main character is seeing, thinking or feeling.”

 

 

Some readers can breeze over this, but when I read a story littered with filters it pulls me out of the narrative. Every. Single. Time.

 

 

Now to be honest, I never noticed filters in my writing until someone pointed it out. I tried my best to avoid them, but alas it kept happening. Frustrated, I couldn’t figure a way around the issue until I read this great piece on “thought verbs” from Chuck Palahniuk. The light bulb finally ignited. As a writer, I needed to crawl inside the head of my character and share what he/she was feeling. The trick? Don’t let the reader know I was doing it.

 

 

So how do you get around filters? Well, it’s not easy. It takes time and a lot of practice to perfect your craft. But if you keep working on it, you slowly learn how to present your narrative without them.

 

 

Let’s look at the examples from above:

 

 

“I noticed he had dark hair.”

 

 

How can you lose the filter but still convey your message? Try adding movement.

 

 

“Adam focused on removing the bolt from the tire. Cranking and pulling on the wrench, a single black hair fell across his forehead.”

 

 

Do we now know the character has black hair? Yes, but in a way that keeps us in the narrative. You’re not shouting, “Hey look, this guy has black hair” rather using action to allow for the description.

 

 

What about the next example?

 

 

“I watched as he shoveled soil from the ground.”

 

 

By removing the “I watched” you can still pull the reader into the scene by using description.

 

 

“The sharp end of the shovel dug into the soil. With brisk movements, one pull after the other, he lifted the wet earth from its resting place.”

 

 

Does the reader know the character is shoveling? Yes-but without you directly telling them.

 

 

In many cases I think of filters like adverbs. You don’t want to use them, but sometimes they are necessary. And that’s okay. The key here is to use your craft to pull the reader into the narrative. Share critical information without actually saying to them, “Look, I need you to pay attention to this detail.”

 

 

Filters are the bane of my existence. I still overuse them in my writing, but I’m hyper aware of it. They come out in herds when I write my first draft. It’s something I constantly struggle with and work at. Recognizing them in my writing is half the battle. Once I see them, I try to use more active verbs, better descriptors. Every time I do, I make my manuscript that much stronger.

 

 

What about you? How do you weed out filter words in your writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Stacey Lee February 18, 2015

WOW

 

 

 

 

Today’s W.O.W. features one of the kindest writers I know, Stacey Lee.  Not only is Stacey an amazing writer, but she is also a big part of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS where she is currently the Legal Director. What I love most about this interview is what Stacey shares about her dedication to the craft of writing. Since a very young age she knew she wanted to write. Through many life changes, she stayed the course and eventually signed with an agent. Now, her debut novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY will hit bookshelves this March!

 

 

Many thanks to Stacey for sharing her writing odyssey today…

 

 

 

Amy: I love the story on your website about writing your first manuscript on a typewriter when you were very young. Have you always had the writing bug?

 

 

Stacey: Yes. My third grade teacher hung a poem I had written about Thanksgiving on the classroom wall. I was the shyest kid in the class, and was astounded to be recognized this way.

 

 

Amy: What was the most challenging thing in writing your debut, UNDER A PAINTED SKY?

 

 

Stacey: For me, it was not being episodic. My main characters, Sammy, a Chinese girl, and Annamae, a black girl, are fleeing down the Oregon Trail disguised as young men. There were a lot of adventures that I had to ‘cut’ from the main journey as it didn’t move the main story along. For example, there was one baseball scene where the girls are forced to play baseball, and have to do it ‘in character’ as boys. I hated to cut that, but it had to go.

 

 

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

 

 

Stacey: I started querying in 1984 as a teenager, and back then, everything was so slow. I would often give up querying because it was just too daunting a process to send manuscript after manuscript, then wait for the SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) to come back, which could take months. Email made things a lot easier!

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for UNDER A PAINTED SKY?

 

 

Stacey: Around 20, I think!

 

 

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

 

 

Stacey: Not instantaneous. A few requested right away, but then it took a few weeks for them to read. Once I got the first offer though, things did start moving – other agents began requesting to talk to me. I was on my way to Lake Tahoe and my phone connection was really spotty. I felt sure I was going to mess it all up and no one was going to want me.

 

 

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

 

 

Stacey: I had always enjoyed reading her blog posts, and knew she was a great agent. (She had previously rejected another of my manuscripts.) She was at the Romantic Times convention when she offered, and so it was a super busy time for her, too. Our ‘call’ wasn’t long. Basically – she told me what she liked about my MS, and I said, okay, thanks, let’s do this.

 

 

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

 

 

Stacey: Absolutely. Sometimes it happened after querying a big project and getting nowhere. Sometimes it happened when I got busy with other things in life – like having kids! And pursuing other interests. But I always naturally came back to writing. I think it’s the same with a lot of writers – it’s instinct, like how salmon swim upstream. Without the dying part at the end.

 

 

 

Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?

 

 

Stacey: Do it because you love to do it. Because you can’t NOT do it. Then you’ll stick to it.

 

 

 

 

Under painted

(Available March 17, 2015)

 

 

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

 

 

 

Stacey LeeStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys.  She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul.  A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall.  After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain.  She plays classical piano, wrangles children, and writes YA fiction. For more on Stacey, checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Pinterest.

 

 

Monday Musings: Taking A Chance February 16, 2015

sunvssnow copy2

 

 

As many of you know, for the last couple of weeks Michelle Hauck and I have been running a little contest called, Sun versus Snow.  This is the second year Michelle and I have hosted this event, and just like last year it was a blast.

 

One of the things that caught me off guard was how quickly our 200 spots filled up…in six minutes. Neither Michelle nor I expected it. In fact, we were pretty sad to have to turn people away.

 

While I was shocked at how quickly the spaces filled up, it also made my heart very full. Why? Because it meant there were writers out there willing to take a chance. Take a chance to put themselves out there. Take a chance to share their work (which can be terrifying). And lastly, take a chance they may be rejected (the hardest one of all in my opinion).

 

Sharing your work can be a daunting thing. There is always that seed of doubt in the back of your mind that whispers what you’ve created isn’t good enough. That your writing, or story, isn’t strong enough. But those who entered, or even wanted to enter, were brave enough to push past doubt and try. And to me that is incredibly admirable.

 

So the next time you think about entering that beloved manuscript in a contest, be like those 216 that took the leap and entered. Yes, you may not get picked, but the experience and friendship you may find will be well worth it. I promise!

 

 

 

 

The Sun is Still Shining: Critique Blog Hop is On! February 13, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Writer,writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:47 am
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sunvssnow copy2

 

 

Welcome to another party! Sun versus Snow is over but new contests like Pitch Madness are coming!

 

Many people didn’t make the entry window for Sun versus Snow. And many more didn’t get picked because we were limited to thirty-two picks. So Michelle Hauck and I wanted to offer an opportunity to get some feedback on your contest entry before the new contests begin.

 

All you need is a query/35 word pitch and first 250 words… AND A BLOG. Your manuscript can be unfinished because there are no agents here. This is simply to polish up your work for future contests. Anyone can enter.

 

All you need to do is post your entry on your blog. Take the url link from your post and add it to the linky list below. (Click on the button in the post, not in the comments.) Use the list to critique the five people above and below your listing. If you are number 6 then you would feedback numbers 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10,11 on the list. Please leave constructive criticism, but also say what you like about the entry. Don’t worry if it’s not your genre, just do your best to give your thoughts.

 

If your entry falls at the beginning or ending of the linky list, wait for the list to close and then give feedback to the other end of the list. For example if you are number 1, you would critique 2 through 6 then the last five links at the very end of the list once the hop closes. 

 

You are welcome to update your entry with revisions. The linky list will remain open through February 21st. After that time, you may not join. 

 

Please make sure to critique the five entries above and below your spot. This is a give and take process and everyone loses if writers don’t do their part.

 

Of course you may also get super enthused and critique more than ten. Feel free to jump around and help out as much as you can! Need more critiques? Advertise your willingness to give to get feedback on twitter under the hashtag #sunvssnow

 

I will try to visit some entries and leave feedback on whether I would or wouldn’t pick it for a contest.

 

Now here’s an example of formatting:

Title: GRUDGING

Genre: YA epic fantasy

Word Count: 90,000

 

Query or 35 word pitch:

 

(Include all of your query, even the bio and greetings/closings. Do try to keep it within 250-350 words. Put space between the paragraphs and single space.)

 

First 250 words:

 

(Put space between paragraphs and single space. Play it like a real contest and stick to the 250 word limit. Don’t end in the middle of a sentence.)

 

Now let’s see how many people we can get to play along! Let the fun begin!

 

Here’s the link:

http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=494542&r=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com%2F

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY: Brighton Walsh and Caged in Winter February 6, 2015

Filed under: Publishing,Literary Agent,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:10 am
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QuiteTheQuery

 

 

 

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 Brighton Walsh. This great query connected her with her agent, Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency.

 

 

 

I’m writing to inquire your interest in representing my completed new adult contemporary romance, Caged in Winter. Through Twitter and #MSWL, I saw you were seeking steamy new adult, and Caged in Winter would be a good fit for what you’re looking for.

 

A protective aspiring chef tries to find the recipe to break down the walls of a broken loner desperately seeking a solitary existence.

 

WINTER JACOBSON has always led a solitary life. Shuffled from foster home to foster home, then breaking out on her own to attend college thousands of miles away from her home state, she’s made it a point to do things on her own. She’s fiercely independent and doesn’t need anyone’s help. So when a Prince Charming wannabe swoops in on his white horse, attempting to rescue her, she tells him to get right back on his horse and keep riding.

 

CADE MAXWELL is intrigued by her fierce rebuttal. All his life, he’s been the protector—man of the house from way too young, guardian to his younger sister, role model to his niece—so when this girl with the fire in her eyes refuses his help, he makes it his mission to crack her walls, just a little. But even when he finally breaks through, she still holds back even though he’s offering something she’s never had: acceptance and love.

 

The one thing he’s most desperate to give her may be the thing that tears them apart.

 

Gritty, emotional, and sexy, CAGED IN WINTER will appeal to readers of Tammara Webber and J. Lynn. The manuscript is complete at 74,000 words is the first in a planned three book companion series. This title, however, also has the ability to stand alone.

 

 

 

Brighton’s Query Tidbit:

 

My query process was a whirlwind. I subbed to 23 agents, all in one fell swoop and all to my A list. I know there’s a lot of talk about how you should go about querying in terms of waves of queries and such, but my motto is always go big or go home, so that’s what I did. I got my first of four offers roughly three weeks after my first submission and signed with my agent a week after that initial offer!

 

 

 

CagedinWinter

 

 

Now available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

 

 

BrightonBrighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible.

 

Her debut novel, Caged in Winter is now available. She is represented by Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency. For more on Brighton, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

 
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