Regan Leigh

Repost of Query Chat: The Basics

June18

* I did a page for QueryChat last week that was separate from my blog posts. I thought I’d repost it so all my readers would see it. You may find some of the links helpful.*

If you don’t already know, #QueryChat is a Twitter chat that takes place every couple of weeks. It’s a time for writers to gather so that they can ask questions and give advice to each other. It also includes helpful links and special guests, like agents or published authors. And sometimes we just vent about our latest query related emotional breakdown. ;) I moderate #QueryChat, if you have any questions.

How do you join? Sign in to Twitter at the announced time (see @QueryChat, that’s me) and follow#QueryChat to watch the questions and answers fly. To participate, make sure to add #QueryChat in your tweets or we won’t see them!

Can I get a Woot-Woot and a ReTweet along with your participation?! :)

Disclaimer: Some people have approached me, asking to promote their services or website. Peer run chat advice is the sole intended purpose for #QueryChat. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pimp this list at the beginning and end of each chat. ;) If you have query related info on your blog or offer services related to the process, please contact me and I will add you to the list below at my discretion. (Aka, make sure you aren’t a spammer and your info is relevant.) I want #QueryChat to stay helpful without worrying over who wants to offer what, so I ask that you reference people in the chat to this post as well rather than giving individual links in the chat, in order for it all to stay fair. *Again, contact me if you want to be added below!*

Also, don’t troll. See definition of troll here.  If you’re looking to pick arguments or gain attention in order to sell your services or promote your website?  Go somewhere else.  You will be blocked and others in the chat will be reminded of their ability to block you as well.

Helpful Links for Query Info:

Absolute Write

Agent Query

Janet Reid

Miss Snark

Nathan Bransford

Preditors and Editors

Publishers Marketplace

Query Shark

Query Tracker

Rachelle Gardner

The Rejectionist

The Swivet

Some Helpful Links for Query Critiques:

Absolute Write’s Query Hell- Section of a great writing forum where you can post your query for critique from peers.

C.A. Marshall- An agent’s intern. Offers free query critiques. Also provides editing services, for a fee. See link for more info.

C.J. Redwine- Offers a query workshop that teaches and critiques for a fee. See link for more info.

Nathan Bransford’s Forum- Section of an agent’s forum where you can post your query for critique from peers.

Examples of Helpful Books for Queries:

2010 Guide to Literary Agents

The Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters

Examples of Helpful Books On Writing:

Writing the Breakout Novel

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

3 AM Epiphany

Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish)

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints

On Writing

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

Links to Previous QueryChat Guests:

(Contact me if you’d like to be a guest and you’re an agent, editor, or published author.)

C.A. Marshall

Hannah Moskowitz

Mercedes Yardley

Kathleen Oritz

MacAllister Stone

Victoria Strauss

Weronika Janczuk

Things to Have in Place When Beginning to Query:

  • Cake
  • Synopsis
  • Tissue
  • One Sentence Summary/Pitch
  • Alcohol when necessary, but moderation please. :)
  • Questions for Potential Agents
  • Friends
  • Tracking System for Queries
  • Chocolate
  • Website Presence
  • Bubble Bath
  • Your MS COMPLETE and Ready to Send
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Quiz time! How would you answer these five questions?

June17

Questions


  1. Do you like prologues?
  2. Name one literary character you wish you’d come up with yourself.
  3. Is there a book you disliked in high school, but like more as an adult?
  4. Name one thing you want with you at all times when writing. (Excluding paper or computer essentials.)
  5. If you could share one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

*My Answers*

  1. Not at all.  I’ve always skipped them, even before learning that this was a topic of debate. ;)
  2. Mr. Darcy - “This is the estimation in which you hold me! I thank you for explaining it so fully. My faults, according to this calculation, are heavy indeed!” Or Heathcliff - “Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
  3. I wasn’t a big fan of The Great Gatsby, but now I think it’s great. :)
  4. Candles
  5. Go after your dream. :)
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Creative Killers

June16

I could call this Creativity Killers, but Creative Killers sounded better to me, so I’m going with it. ;)

(And why did I pick this picture?  Because the thing that kills my creativity the most is math. Freakin’ hate math.)

What kills creativity?  How can you avoid the creative killers?

  • Life. Or should I say life stressors?  That’s a big one for me. I’ve accomplished very little this week.  Life.  It’s a creativity suck like none other.  Find ways to cope with your stress.  Put life on hold when you can and curl into your writing cave.  You can emerge and deal with life again in a couple of hours. (If the life stressors allow for that.)
  • Editing. ;) You know what I mean. You edit, revise, change, trim… then you snap out of the trance.  Writing is supposed to be fun and creative, right?  Not always.  Editing is work and it can suck the creativity right out of you.  Make your editing more fun by mixing in times for side projects or flash pieces.  Keep the juices going.
  • Letting criticism shut you down. I think we’ve probably all experienced a time when heavy criticism or critique pushed us away from writing for a few hours or a few days. Hopefully, we don’t let this last past a few days.  We never should.  Criticism should be constructive.  And when it is, use it to your advantage.  You can’t progress well without it.  If the criticism is just down right dirty and ill-intentioned, move on even faster.  Those aren’t wounds for you to lick.  Why would you let someone like that stop you from your dream?  Don’t let the dirty and ill-intentioned win.
  • Too much pre-planning or outlining. If you plan out the entire book in advance, it makes it much harder to kick in the creative vibe when sitting down to write the scenes. I’m an extremist at this.  I rarely outline until I already have half the scenes written because I don’t really know my story until I actually sit down to write it.  Overall, remember that writing should come from a deeper place than your logic.  It should *cheesy warning* come from the heart.  Seriously.  How can you listen to your creativity if your post-it note speaks louder?  Write freely as much as possible.
  • Distractions. Distractions can put us further and further behind on our writing, which leads to frustration with our progress, and then further distractions to compensate for our frustration.  More and more I’m finding myself shutting down forums and Twitter so I can write.  I used to be able to multi-task, but now?  Life is making my concentration hard, which makes multi-tasking nearly impossible. :/  So shut things down. Shut it all down and leave the world to you and your MC.  Nothing and no one else.
  • Writer’s block. Sometimes the ideas just flow, right?  You’ll have a night where everything comes together and looks beautiful.  The very next night you may stare at the screen for hours.  Creativity isn’t always consistent or logical.  And technically, writer’s block is the outcome of lost creativity, but it leads down a rabbit hole if you don’t write yourself out of it. Yes, when blocked you should write and write until something good starts to come out. Like running water through dingy pipes to clear the way.


What are some other creative killers?  How do you overcome them?

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Self-Promotion: Should an author do the marketing?

June14

Mind if I get on my soapbox for a minute?  Let me start by saying this is purely my opinion. ;)

Imagine with me, if you will, that I’ve written a book.  Oh, wait.  I have.  A couple of them. :D

But imagine that I’ve queried, gotten an agent, and successfully made it through the submissions process at a big publishing house. (I have done none of those things. Yet.)  Should I – as an author of a soon to be published book – do marketing for myself?

There are more than a couple of opinions on this.  Here is mine.  I will — under any and all circumstances — market myself to the best of my ability.  Even if I snagged a huge publishing house.  Some would say leave the marketing to the publisher.  That’s their job.  My job is to write the next book, right?  To that, I say, sure… I’ll write the next book and make that my real focus, but I will not ignore my responsibility in promotion.

Why do I still think it’s best to self-promote?

It’s simple.  The publishing house is distributing my book and they will do marketing for me, the amount depending on the publisher, but in the end this is my book.  My hours, love, sacrifices, and tears have gone into those pages.  Who could promote my book the most genuinely?  Me.  It’s my baby and I want it to succeed more than anyone, even more than the publishing company or my agent.  So why in the hell would I pass it off and wipe my hands clean?  ”Ok, guys!  You take it from here. Hope it goes well!”

No way!  I want to know I’ve done everything I can to market myself and the book.  This is my dream and my heart on the line.  I’ll work my butt off to do whatever I can to make it work.  And this is coming from someone who has to market herself for her day job.  I don’t like the feeling of self-promotion.  It’s awkward.  But it’s needed.

There are some things to consider with my approach.  Would I spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on self promotion?  No.  Why?  One reason is that I just don’t have the funds for that, but even if I did, why would I go broke when there are so many marketing ideas that are free?  Yes, FREE! And accessible! ;)

Main points to keep in mind before self-promoting…

  • Be genuine. Most people can spot fake immediately.  And if you write YA books, know that they’re even tougher critics of genuineness.  It’s not hard to do.  Blah blah blah branding… be yourself more than a “brand”.  That’s all.  People appreciate it and feel like they could connect with you “in real life”, even if they don’t necessarily like your personality.  You’re being real.
  • Concentrate on your strengths. Don’t feel like you have to try every promotion idea you hear about.  Some of them may be hard for you or may not be your strength.  Figure out what you’re best at and then run with it. :)  If you need to, get feedback from your peers to help determine this.
  • Don’t blow all your time on fun things for a book that may not get published. Yes, it’s fun to find pictures of celebrities to represent your characters, to make up mock covers for your book, to set up iTunes playlists for your book, or to create a book trailer for your WIP.  Believe me… I’ve done all those things. :D BUT if you notice it’s cutting into your writing time?  Yeah, the point is to get published, right?  Get back to that document and write more.
  • Research. If you don’t have a clue what good promotion or marketing is about, then research it.  Go investigate some of your favorite authors or the writer blogs that you admire.  What stands out about someone’s site?  What makes you want to read someone’s book?  Better yet, what makes you want to help and promote another writer?
  • Think ahead. Always think ahead, watch the industry, and stay up to date.

And yes, this is all premature for me.  I’m thinking ahead.  What have I learned about my own style of self-promotion since writing my books?

I have no book to promote at this time, but I tried making a book trailer to show my betas what my book was about.  (And because it was SO fun. ;) )  That post tripled my average blog views and it triggered a couple of others to do their own.  I realized I have the skills to make a decent trailer without blowing money on someone to do it for me.

I realized I enjoy blogging.  I’ve had times where I faded in and out of it, but it was life holding me back from blogging, not a lack of desire.  When I only had enough time to write, the blog went on hold.  Priorities.

I’ve also learned how much I absolutely, genuinely enjoy meeting and connecting with other authors.  I’m beyond happy that I joined forums and Twitter.  Without the fellow writer support and advice, I’d me miserable and ignorant. ;)  I am a person that will use social medias to promote my book later.  Why?  Because I enjoy it.

I also know that I suck at public speaking. Well, ok, I don’t suck at it. I’ve been told I do a very good job, but my nerves are a wreck when I have to. ;) I just cover it well.  So would I do speaking engagements?  Sure.  Sigh. I’d make myself.  However, it wouldn’t be my focus.  And I know that there’s always Skype.  That’s a great way to connect, speak, and “travel” for free without the nerves killing me. :D

I’m rambling again. My point is… this is my book.  My baby.  My dream.  I’ll promote the hell out of it, no matter how cool my publishing house may be. ;)

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Protected: Flash Challenge: The Fight (Reg. Password, Email for it)

June14

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Things to Have in Place When Beginning to Query

June11

  • Cake
  • Synopsis
  • Tissue
  • One Sentence Summary/Pitch
  • Alcohol when necessary, but moderation please. :)
  • Questions for Potential Agents
  • Friends
  • Tracking System for Queries
  • Chocolate
  • Website Presence
  • Bubble Bath
  • Your MS COMPLETE and Ready to Send

What would you add to the list? ;)

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How do you handle rejection?

June10

I haven’t started querying, yet.  I’m not ready.  More revisions must happen for me first.  I refuse to be a writer that queries agents before she’s ready.  I’ve read all the no-no’s and that’s one I could see myself doing just out of impatience.  So I’m learning patience.  A great, huge mountain of new found stinkin’ patience.

But it still makes me crazy. :)

And yesterday I had one of those days… You know, one where you want to delete, burn, or completely re-work your story?  A day that makes it all seem pointless and fruitless and eye-pokingly horrible…

Why?  I have entered (and failed miserably) at two contests in a week.  That only bugged me because I’ve had a year of contest entering with no success.  I could say I keep trying because I’m brave like that, but really?  I’m just stubborn as anything.

Why else?  Well, I have asked to have my stuff critiqued a lot lately, which means loads of feedback, but also loads of ways I could improve my writing.  And though it stings at times, I honestly appreciate it to no end. So it’s a small part of why I’m feeling…

Man.  I don’t know what I’m feeling.  Kind of rejected.  Discouraged.  Incompetent.  Delusional.  Yeah, all those.

But WHY?  I think the bottom line is this…

Being a writer is hard.  We all feel this way from time to time.

And I’m not even querying!  I have yet to experience a day where multiple rejections show up in my email at once.  I’m not to the stage where people basically tell me all the reasons they don’t want to rep my book, or worse where they don’t tell me anything except a no.

A friend once heard me having a breakdown over finishing the last version of Mallory.  I know he was laughing at me when he said I’m going to be hilarious when I started querying.  Well, yes… Yes, I will be.  I promise ranty posts and crazy talk for days.  Weeks.  Months.  Check back.  It’ll be interesting for sure.

So, to all my query stage writers, how do you get through it without giving up on your writing? How do you stay in love with the novel that’s causing you so much anxiety?

To you writers with an agent and on submission, how do you keep it together when you’re so close to your dream and it’s being decided by strangers in a board room who may leave you hanging for weeks and weeks?

To you writers still working on your novel, how do you keep going and make yourself finish the book?  Despite your doubts and knowledge of the crazy query hell ahead?

How do you handle rejection?

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Protected: Flash Fiction Challenge: Library (Reg.Password,Email for it)

June7

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My entry for a contest… the one that made me sweat.

June3

Nathan Bransford, celebrity of agents, held another contest.  Another one for me to enter and lose, right? ;) Why not?  I’m trying anyway.

“Please enter one suspense/action sequence not to exceed 500 words in the comments section…”

Why did this entry make me sweat?  Cause I didn’t know what to submit! I had three options and I was also considering writing something new.  Finally, I listened to my esteemed peers and entered a fight scene I had from an old version of a WIP.  I wasn’t thrilled with it and I’m still too close to editing for me to know if I even like it now, but I entered it anyway.  Cause I’m dangerous like that. *growl*

Here it is.  Contest entry #514.  He had 520.  I busted it into his comments 8 mins before the contest closed.  *wipes away sweat*

It was hard not to speed, but I didn’t want to get pulled over.  The cop wouldn’t like my reason and it might prove premeditation in court.

Ian’s shutters were open and I could see him sleeping.  He must’ve been out late searching for Ann.  Good.  He’d be tired.

Rain pelted my face as I lifted up on the window.  The frame started to give way under my hands.  The idiot didn’t lock his windows.

Before I could get it open, I was distracted by lightning and then deafening thunder shaking the ground.  Turning back, I was jolted by Ian on the other side of the glass.  Well, damn.

His eyes were deranged.  I swallowed hard, unprepared for him to look as menacing as I felt.

Through the cracked opening, he said, “You’re not coming in.”

“I know — I’d have to wipe off fingerprints.  You’re coming outside.”

“Is that supposed to scare me?”

He smashed his fist through the glass, grabbed my collar in his bloody hand and sent me flying into the mud.

As I righted myself, Ian pushed the shattered window open, hopped out and began to circle me.

I crouched and tried to survey the backyard for a weapon.  “I warned you.  You tried to kill her — so it’s only fair I attempt to do the same to you.”

“Try.”

I’d glimpsed a row of flat stones, but was too far to reach them.  If I kept up the dance, we’d eventually be closer.

Ian’s hand was bleeding without him giving a single grimace in pain.  He really was insane.  Lightning split the sky, illuminating his creepy ass face.

He lunged for me and I jumped to the side.  He’d barely missed me as I’d slipped my foot into his path, sending him to the ground.  I gave a swift kick to his gut and turned to the pile of rocks.  I managed to get a large stone, but Ian was already beside me, knocking it from my grasp.  He clipped my jaw.  I retaliated with a hit to his mouth.

Ian wasn’t even breathing heavy between his bleeding lips.  Holy hell.  He came at me again, but I caught him off guard with a blow to the stomach.  My knuckles slammed into his nose and I felt it crack under the force.  I charged him, knocking us both to the ground as I grasped for the stone and crushed it against his skull.

Rain dripped along my face so thick it made it hard to see.  The hit should have taken him out of the fight, but damn if I ever got a break.  Ian took me by the throat.

I couldn’t breathe. The fingers around my neck were steel and I immediately thought of Ann’s finger-shaped bruises.

A large branch splintered over Ian’s head.  He fell into the mud, eyes rolling back.

John watched me pant as he checked Ian’s pulse and said, “He’s alive.”

“Hit him again.”

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The moments that help a writer…

June2

I’ve had a few instances in the past week where people have given me crazy good encouragement.  As in, saying the kinds of things that all writers need to hear…

Writers.  We’re a weird bunch, no?  We choose a path/art form that leaves us solitary a lot of the time and yet the whole point of our writing adventures are to help connect to others — our readers. Right?  Or am I missing the point? ;)  It seems a bit twisted, doesn’t it?

Anyway, we spend hours working with little or no encouragement  from others, mainly because we keep our writing close by and only dare to share it with certain people.  We’re misunderstood — really, how can we expect others to know what we go through when we didn’t expect most of it ourselves when beginning this writing journey — and we’ll knock out hours upon hours each week with only the hope of one day being published.  No pay.  Awful hours.  Little understanding from those in our lives at times.  And did I mention the hours that may feel fruitless in the end?

What makes it worth it for me?  I know that even if I don’t get published, there are people out there that have liked my writing.  I’ve made people cry and laugh from my words.  THAT feels amazing to me.  And when others, especially other writers, happen to make comments of encouragement?  Love.  Just love.  :)  It makes sense again.  There really is a reason to it all.

Since most of us spend 50% of our time in the land of am-I-crazy-for-doing-this, it is a relief to hear that the answer is no.

I had a couple of people on Tuesday that helped me out of the am-I-crazy land.

***

Madeleine. She’s my 14 year old buddy — who I have no doubt will be published by 16 — that has been reading my MS Hayes. (Used to be Adult novel, but being transformed into YA.)  She read a new scene from Hayes and emailed me after.

“I AM TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH THIS SCENE! HOLY CROW! I WANT MORE AND YOU ARE A STINKIN’ EVIL FRIEND FOR NOT WRITING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT AND I LOVE YOU!” (She doesn’t normally write in all caps, which makes it that much better.)

Miranda. I can’t remember what exactly she said. I think it was in a chat, but it was something encouraging about how well my MS Hayes seemed to be going. (As we discussed the success rate of most author’s first novel.)

Jason (foreverjuly).  He sent out a tweet for the #Writer Wednesday that said, “Runs one of the best writing blogs I’ve seen on these here internets. Destined for stardom? The answer is yes. Follow her.”

And then, Gary (BigWords) said, “You’re gonna get a big head if everyone keeps on praising you…”

Nope, Gary.  Just going to live in the I’m-not-so-crazy-all-the-time-land for today. ;)

Let me spread some love around, myself.

Amanda P: I think she’s going to have a really cool submission for a contest, from what I read yesterday.  :) Great idea and VERY good writer.  She should send me more. ;)

Madeleine:  Seriously?  Where are my next pages?  Oh, I mean, I love your *not to be named* WIP and I think you’re an awesome writer. Not for your age.  In general, awesome.

Miranda: WHERE ARE MORE PAGES? Oh, I mean… :) You’ve got me hooked and I want mooore. Smooth writing and fun to read!! :)

Cole:  You know that confession from a previous post? “Sometimes when I read your writing, it makes me really sad I’m not that good.” That was about you.

Erica: I know you have tons of revisions to work on, but I miss reading your stuff. :D You’re a thousand times better than you think you are.

Chris: I’ve enjoyed reading the pieces you’ve done for my prompts.  You should share your writing more. *nods* Yep. Share. :)

*Thinks about who else’s writing I’ve read recently and draws an insomniac blank.”

I shouldn’t have started this. I have too many people to mention.  So help me out.

My plea to you all, this lovely Writer Wednesday…  go find at least one other writer and tell them how much you’ve enjoyed something they’ve written.  Help another writer stay out of crazy town today. :D (And then report back here. ;) )


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