Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…





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.



First Five Frenzy with Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary February 20, 2015

 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, Kaylee Davis’ 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?



Kaylee: The first line sets the expectations. If the manuscript starts strong from the very beginning, I’m going to be interested in continuing to read. And that is key.


Then, if I lose myself in the story and suddenly I’ve read pages ahead without realizing it, I’m going to be absolutely delighted. It’s got me hooked, and I’m going to want more!




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?


Kaylee: It’s incredible how many openings start with dreams! I also see a lot of waking up, exposition, or stopping by a reflective surface to explain the protagonist’s physical description.


More specifically, for MG I see a lot of manuscripts begin on the protagonist’s birthday. For YA, it’s walking into a new high school for the first time. For Scifi, it’s a lengthy description of the new universe/planet/species. For Fantasy, gathering herbs is huge and I don’t know how this became a thing, but it’s really popular!


A lot of those openings are more passive. On the flip side, when a writer is trying to draw the reader in with action or conflict or shock value, I see a lot of manuscripts begin by plunging into the middle of a battle or fight scene. This can be effective, but more often it comes off as disengaging—typically the stakes are undefined, and the reader hasn’t yet had the opportunity to emotionally invest in the protagonist.


That doesn’t mean that if a particular manuscript opens in one of the above ways it will automatically be rejected. But it does mean the first impression is being made on a note of heavier competition, and now those first pages have to work even harder to delineate the manuscript as being apart from the pack.




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?



Kaylee: Ultimately, I want to feel like I’m in good hands. If the ideas and execution come together in a way that intrigues and immerses me, that’s gold. I’m in, and I want to be along for the ride.



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



Kaylee: The mistakes I see are often a result of too little editing. In the first draft, often the writer is familiarizing themselves with the story and the characters. They’re mentally delving into backstory and descriptive detail to bring vividness and authenticity to the world. But if that is not edited out in later drafts, then those first paragraphs, or even first pages, end up being solid exposition.


I always say that whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, never underestimate the power of a critical eye during the editing stages. Just because a piece of writing is strong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s strengthening the manuscript as a whole.



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



Kaylee: The concept resonates with me first, but I’m getting that information more from the query letter and the synopsis. I know beginnings can be tough, so the pacing of the manuscript as a whole is not always determinable by those first pages. However, voice can be. I’m getting to know the writer’s personal voice, and that’s establishing the whole flavor of the concept. Voice is also one of the hardest things to work on, so if a writer shows skill with that, I’ll feel confident going forward in the rest of the story.




Kaylee DKaylee Davis is an Associate Literary Agent at Dee Mura Literary. She is especially interested in building her client list in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, young adult, new adult, LGBTQ+, steampunk and literary. She is drawn to exciting, thought-provoking stories with a fresh perspective that explores what it means to be human. She is also a sucker for spies, hackers, conspiracies, ambiguous moralities, alternate realities, and giant squid. You can find her hanging out at About.Me or on Twitter at @Kaylee_Davis_.



If you’re interested in submitting to Kaylee, please check the Dee Mura Literary website for their guidelines.


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:


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:




COME JOIN THE BLOG HOP! February 4, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:49 am
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My contest partner, Michelle Hauck and I will be hosting a critique opportunity for anyone interested after the Sun versus Snow agent round ends. Anyone can join. It’s NOT necessary to have been entered in Sun versus Snow. It’s also NOT necessary that your manuscript is finished and polished.


The idea is to shine up entries for future contests!


To play along you will need a query letter and first 250 words. You’ll also need a blog. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a blog before, this is a good reason to start one. Then on February 13th, that’s right Friday the 13th, come back to our blogs and add your link to the linky link. You will be required to critique the ten people above and below your entry. (If you are at the end or beginning of the link list, you’ll critique people at the opposite end once the link closes.)


There will be no agents involved. Just writers helping writers and sharing their experience. Michelle and I will try and drop by and look at those participating and give our feedback. There are lots of contests coming. This is a fun opportunity to get ready for them, draw traffic to your blog, and learn/meet new writer friends.


See you Friday the 13th!








When you’re new to both the writing and publishing world there are a lot of mysteries. At first you may question how to craft the perfect query or write a successful synopsis. After you’re a little more seasoned, you may wonder about the correct format for submitting a full manuscript or how to approach revisions.


But even after you’re educated about the writing process and think you know a lot about publishing, there are still mysteries that remain. Things like: What really goes on during the submission process? Or what role does an Acquisitions Editor play at a publishing house? You may wonder how an editor decides on a revise & resubmit or what role an agent plays in a book auction.


In BEHIND THE CURTAIN I’m going to peel back some of those veils of secrecy. Share with both new and seasoned writers what goes on behind the scenes. Every month there will be a new installment that I hope will both educate and create a better understanding of both the writing and publishing process.


So stop by the third Wednesday of every month and check out what’s BEHIND THE CURTAIN. I promise it will be a fun and informative new series!


Do you have something about the writing or publishing world that you’d like to know more about? If so, please leave a comment and I will do my best to try and include in the series!



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