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Fall 1st Hop Critique 9

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 25 November 2014 · 15 views

I'll give a shot at some first page comments. Keep in mind that feedback on a first page is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The hop is now closed. Be sure to finish up your critiques. Writers at the beginning and ending of the list should critique each other. If you have a revision, you can ask for feedback on the #Fall1stHop hashtag. 
Query Hop coming in December so stay tuned!
The random number generator picks 35! 
Here is the first page without comments:
YA Murder Mystery
A police car blocked the main road into my school’s burnt umber brick and whitewashed doors. I raised an eyebrow at it, nibbled a nail, and tripped out of the school minibus.
For April, the spring air rose way too crisply and held grass thick with swords of dew, and I struggled with the starched collar of my uniform as moisture crept up my arms and into that annoying air pocket between jumper and shirt. I loosened my tie and shook the wrinkles from my skirt.
“Agnetha! Come on.”
I jolted. Whilst I preferred Vera not laughing at me, I winced at her whining tone. Like I cared if we were late. First lesson on Fridays was Spanish, and I was already failing.
I walked to where she stood and rested a hand on one of her wrists with a nod towards the main entrance.
“Look.”
As she froze to follow my now-absent gaze, I wandered ahead and kicked at the flowerbed along the front lawn path. I’d have dived into the mushrooms and roses there instead of bumbling my way to class. I snapped off one pink-faced fool and tossed it into the mud, and then lifted a mushroom, shifting earth and shoe-dirt and wilderness as I tucked the fungus behind my ear.
A hand on my shoulder, and Vera had caught up. She skipped past me, bubbling with incessant words. “What’s up with the police car?”
“You think I know?” I eyed the blue, yellow and white chequers. Police cars had a weird kind of beauty.

And with my crazy comments:
YA Murder Mystery
A police car blocked the main road into my school’s burnt umber brick and whitewashed doors. I raised an eyebrow at it, nibbled a nail, and tripped out of the school minibus. (This second sentence falls flat for me.) I stare at it as I trip out of the school minibus, nibbling on a fingernail.
For April, the spring air rose way too crisply and held grass thick with swords of dew (I think you're trying to say it's hot, but being way too fancy. And I kind of expected something more about the police car) For April, the air stifled, leaving me struggling ... and I struggled with the starched collar of my uniform as moisture crept up my arms and into that annoying air pocket between jumper and shirt. I loosened my tie and shook the wrinkles from my skirt. (I do like the rest of the paragraph but wonder if we shouldn't have something more important or some wonder from her about the police car after she shakes out her skirt.  Such as: Why were the police here?)
“Agnetha! Come on.”
I jolted. (This sounds awkward and you say the same thing in two sentences. You only need it once.) I winced at Vera's whining tone. Whilst I preferred Vera not laughing at me, I winced at her whining tone. Like I cared if we were late. The first lesson today on Fridays (feels like you're feeding us information. Does the day matter?) was Spanish, and I was already failing.
I walked to where she stood and rested a hand on one of her wrists with a nod towards the main entrance.
“Look.”
As she followed my froze to follow my now-absent gaze, I wandered ahead and kicked at the flowerbed along the front lawn path. I’d have If only I could dived into the mushrooms and roses there instead of bumbling my way to class. I snapped off one a pink-faced fool and tossed it into the mud, and then lifted a mushroom, shifting earth and shoe-dirt and wilderness as I tuckeding the fungus behind my ear.
A hand on my shoulder, and Vera had caught up. She Vera skipped past me, bubbling with incessant words. “What’s up with the police car?” (Wouldn't Vera have seen it too when she got off the bus? Why would she have to be told to look at it? It just doesn't seem natural. Maybe if Agnetha redirects her to look at it again. Or if Vera mentions it without having to be directed that way.)
“You think I know?” I eyed the blue, yellow and white chequers. Police cars had a weird kind of beauty. (I feel like we have a main character with a very unique perspective here. Agnetha is interesting.)

To me this passage feels a little stilted or forced, like the writing is trying too hard. It doesn't come across as natural. It's being fancy for the sake of fanciness, not to create a feeling of stiffness in the character. Getting off the school bus is something Agnetha does everyday. It should have a casual feel.

Also why direct Vera to look at the police car. Wouldn't she see it and mention it on her own?

Where the first page could be formal and stiff is about the police car. Maybe you should create a little more ominous feel to the police car. The last paragraph would be a great place to put a little creepiness.

I like this character and this passage made me curious about what happens next.

I hope this helps. 


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Query Questions with Lydia Moed

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 24 November 2014 · 23 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.

 



Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

I'm so happy to finally have a new interview for everyone! Please do mention new questions in the comments or on twitter if anyone has suggestions. It's about time to add in some new ones.

We're back into the query slush answers with Lydia Moed of The Rights Factory. A big thanks to her for taking the time. Anyone who loves Firefly is welcome here!


Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
In addition to being a regular associate agent, I also handle foreign rights for my agency’s children’s and YA list. As a result, I’m pretty busy around the big book fairs - March/April and September/October are my busiest times of year. Over the summer and during the winter holidays I have a lot less going on on the foreign rights side, so I’ll tend to respond to queries more quickly at those times.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Not at all - everybody makes mistakes! And hey, if you didn’t notice it when you were proofreading the thing nine times before sending, there’s a chance I might not notice it either.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I ask for the query first, and request sample pages only if the query intrigues me.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
It’s all me!

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Absolutely - if the prologue is an integral part of the story then of course I want to see it. If it’s not, then the manuscript probably shouldn’t have a prologue at all.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
If I get a strong query that I think might appeal to a colleague, I’ll forward it on. Occasionally that happens several times in a week, but sometimes months will go by and I don’t get anything I think I should forward on. I love it when I do manage to put a colleague in touch with an author they really connect with, though.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I’d rather hear about the manuscript, to be honest - I like to be reminded if I’ve met an author in person or been in touch with them in any way previously, but apart from that I don’t really need to know how an author heard of me or why they think their book would fit my list. If the author has read about me and knows what I like, I can usually tell just by reading about the manuscript.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
If I were already interested in the manuscript it wouldn’t make me less keen, but I would definitely ask for clarification when I requested material. The mechanical stuff about word count and genre is the easiest part of the query to write, so there’s no reason not to include it!
  
Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Definitely think about it, but don’t get too attached. It’s great to have a strong, attention-grabbing title, but there are a lot of reasons why a publisher might want to change it to something even better.
  
Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
It wouldn’t tip the scales, but I do like to see that a writer has a good web presence and knows what they’re doing online. I encourage my clients to develop some kind of web presence, even if it’s just a lander page, but I’m not fussy about whether they prefer Twitter, Tumblr, long-form blogging or any of the other options out there.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?
Not at all - link away! If I like the query, the first thing I’ll do is Google you, so adding the link in your email just saves me a step. The link could be in your email signature, or it could be part of your bio - I really don’t mind.

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
Only if material was requested.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
A couple of sentences about yourself (what you do for a living, a link to your blog if you have one, any interesting hobbies, anything that might make me think ‘hmm, they seem like an interesting person’) and a couple about what makes you a good person to write this book. Did your childhood in India inspire you to write a story set in the Mughal Empire? Does your Japanese heritage inform your Asian steampunk novel? Did your PhD in crustacean biology help you create your alien species? I want to know that stuff, so stick it in your bio.

What does ‘just not right for me’ mean to you?
Usually it means ‘I am just not excited by this query, and I cannot come up with a more concrete and helpful reason why it doesn’t appeal to me’.

What themes are you sick of seeing?
Basically any of the common tropes of YA science fiction/fantasy (society divided into Named Classes, starcrossed lovers and/or love triangle, pointlessly oppressive regimes and all the rest of it) - I’m open to YA, but not if it contains any of these tropes. Pirate crews or similar ‘ensemble cast’ situations with only one female member (inevitably described as ‘feisty’). Any fantasy set in Western European Fantasyland (cloaks, taverns, broadswords, wizards etc).

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
Absolutely.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
I’ll tell you some stories if we meet in real life, but I’m not going to embarrass anybody on the internet - even anonymously.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
1. I’m looking for great writing by authors from marginalised or underrepresented groups. We need new perspectives, and I’m very interested in hearing from anybody who can help to make my favourite genres less white, straight, and abled/ablist.
2. I’m developing a reputation as an SFF agent, which is great because I love the genre, but I’m looking for other kinds of writing too. I’d particularly love some well-researched historical fiction set in a lesser-known time or place.
3. I’m very interested in writing that explores what happens after the apocalypse, as people learn to cope with the change and try to create a new society that fits their new circumstances (e.g. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, Warren Ellis’s Freakangels, the TV show Defiance).

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 
Books: Mervyn Peake and Angela Carter are probably the two authors who have had the greatest influence on my reading tastes. My more recent favourites include China Miéville, Nalo Hopkinson, Catherynne M Valente (I’m not fond of her YA but I love her writing for adults), Frances Hardinge, Philip Reeve and Margaret Elphinstone. I also love classical and pre-modern Japanese literature. My ideal narrative non-fiction writer is Tim Mackintosh-Smith: informative, erudite, highly entertaining, feels like a friend of yours by the end of the book.
Movies/TV: I love any film directed by Naoko Ogigami - my favourite is Kamome Shokudo (‘Seagull Diner’). I’m also fond of Wes Anderson and Studio Ghibli - I’d love to find a manuscript with a Miyazaki feel to it. TV obsessions of the last few years include Firefly (of course), Orphan Black, Arctic Air, Defiance, the Japanese drama Jin, and the Korean dramas Sunkyungkwan Scandal and Tree With Deep Roots.

 -------------------------------------------------


Lydia Moëd is an associate agent at The Rights Factory in Toronto. She came to Canada from the UK, where she worked as a foreign rights executive for UK children’s publishers. She has also worked as a freelance literary translator and editor, and as a bookseller at Foyles in London. In addition to handling foreign rights for The Rights Factory's children's and YA list, she is also building her own list of clients for representation.

For fiction, she is most interested in acquiring science fiction and fantasy, though she also enjoys magic realism, historical fiction and stories inspired by folklore from around the world. For non-fiction, she is interested in narrative non-fiction on a wide variety of topics, including history, popular science, biography and travel writing. She would love to bring more translated literature into English, and particularly welcomes queries by authors from marginalised groups.




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Getting the Call from Kim Long

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 22 November 2014 · 33 views

So happy to share another Query Kombat success story! Sometimes it takes time and a little revision. You can find the agent round entry for Star Light, Star Bright here. Congrats to Kim!


A couple years ago I decided I wanted to write a book. I always enjoyed writing, and every now and then I'd get inspired for a few weeks and work diligently at putting words onto paper, but it wasn't something I took seriously. One night I was reading Game of Thrones and thought how great it'd be if there was a book solely about Arya Stark.

I've always considered Arya the most interesting (even though there's other characters I love, like Tyrion), but there's so many characters in Martin's books that we don't see enough of her. So, with this bright idea, I closed the word document containing my legal thriller and started a YA fantasy that focused on a fourteen-year-old girl. Fast forward to a year-and-a-half later. Manuscript is finished. I write my query (getting suggestions from Query Tracker folks) and send it out.

Crickets.

I enter it in Pitch Madness.

Crickets.

I enter Sun & Snow.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. 

I decide to read some YA fantasy. (Now there's an idea--one I should have had much earlier, but hey, better late then never.) I learn that my original ideas aren't so original, and, overall, I'm not sure there's anything really unique or spectacular to make my YA fantasy stand out. I do a complete overhaul and decide to query one more time. I also enter a few more contests (The Writer's Voice, LIke a Virgin, etc. - same crickets as before.) But during this time, I also come to the conclusion that it's probably best to move on and write something completely different. Because the one thing I did learn over the two years was how much I really loved writing. Why hadn't I been doing this earlier? Oh that's right, I have a day job and a zillion other things to do. But I didn't want to stop, and with tons of ideas popping into my head, how could I?

So I send out my last batch of queries for the YA in late January 2014 and start an MG fantasy. The words came easier this time--much easier, as did pacing, showing vs. telling, the query letter, everything really. Apparently, that YA novel had taught me something. I finished in early May 2014 with my eye on Query Kombat. I entered before my beta readers finished it and was thrilled when Michelle picked my entry, Star Light, Star Bright, for her team. I advanced a few rounds, but the greatest part was all the incredibly positive comments I received. Overall, people loved the query letter, the idea, and the voice. I was definitely onto something!

I sent out five queries in late May and then a few more in July. I received two requests for fulls out of the first six queries I sent. Wow. I couldn't believe it! Between July and early September I sent out a few more queries (basically, whenever I read about someone who said she/he had received a rejection a year after getting a full request, I got scared and sent out a few more queries). The request rate stayed pretty constant. I had six full requests out of 22 queries.

Then in early October I got an email from an agent saying she loved the book, but thought certain parts could be more developed. She passed, but said if I felt like revising, please send it her way. At the time, I had been revising one of the parts at issue, having come to a similar conclusion. I really liked the way the revisions were going and, even though the agent had passed, I was hopeful she would like the revisions . . . and that's when Agent #2 emailed that she loved the initial manuscript and would like to offer representation. But what about the revisions I loved so much? Since I liked the changes, I quickly completed the revisions, notified the other agents of the offer, sent the new version to everyone (including the agent who had indicated she'd love to look at a revised version) and waited.

I ended up with multiple offers, and everyone I talked to was great. But Sara Crowe had been one of the first agents I queried, and when she emailed, "I LOVE this book," my heart skipped a beat. The ensuing conversation was just as amazing, and everyone says to go with your gut, so that's what I did. I'm thrilled to say I am now represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger.

Now, I know this is very long for a success story, but if I had said I wrote a book in three-and-a-half months, sent 22 queries, got six full requests, and an offer three-and-a-half months later from my dream agent, it would seem like things came very easy. They didn't. It was three years of writing, of rejection on the YA, of entering contests and not getting picked, and of getting no favorites in twitter contests. But persistence does pay off, as does knowing when it's time to try something new. My YA is still there, and there are parts of it I love and may try to rework some day, but the best thing I could have done was move onto something new. If I had any advice, that would be it--stick with it, use contests to get to know people and improve your writing, and don't get discouraged. Remember that we're in this for the long haul and for the love of the story.

**********


Kim Long is an attorney working in the Chicagoland area who, when not lawyering or writing, spends time drawing, bicycling, and becoming way too invested in her fantasy football and baseball teams. KimLongWritesHere@blogspot.com 


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Fall 1st Hop Critique 8

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 21 November 2014 · 21 views

I'll give a shot at some first page comments. Keep in mind that feedback on a first page is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The hop is now closed. Be sure to finish up your critiques. Writers at the beginning and ending of the list should critique each other. If you have a revision, you can ask for feedback on the #Fall1stHop hashtag. 
Query Hop coming in December so stay tuned!
The random number generator picks 9! We seem to be hitting a lot of low numbers.

Here is the first page without comments:

YA/Paranormal Revision #2: Updated 11/10/14 
“I Fold.” Spence set his cards down on the table. It was Ms. Edith and me now. I gave her my best poker face, not wanting to reveal the pair of aces resting in my hand. Ms. Edith, squinting at her hand, was moving it close to her face, and then farther to get a better view. I cleared my throat and pointed to the eyeglasses that rested neatly on top of her silver curls.

 “Raise a quarter,” she challenged. I pondered her face, and then my own hand.

 “Fold, let’s see ‘em.”
Ms. Edith lay her full house down “pay up Felix,” she stopped short, looking at a spot behind me. Spence and I turned to look.

A light, growing brighter shimmered in the air. Now it was our turn to squint. “Well, it’s about darn time!” Ms. Edith grinned and stood up. Shoving her pile of cash toward Spence and me, she straightened her skirt and walked toward the light. “Bye fellas,” she waved and stepped into the light and disappeared, leaving me gaping after her in shock.

“What just happened?" I asked Spence.
“Edith moved on to a better place,” he said.

"Moved on, how?" I hadn’t seen any spirits move on before, which made me curious; how did we move on and where do we go?
“When we have fulfilled our purpose in the afterlife, we move on to our final place.


“Final place, as in heaven and hell, those are real?”“Wow kid, I figured you knew.”  

With my crazy comments:
YA/Paranormal Revision #2: Updated 11/10/14 
“I Ffold.” Spence set his cards down on the table. It was Ms. Edith and me now. (Maybe combine these? Spence set his cards on the table, leaving Ms. Edith and me.) I gave her my best poker face, not wanting to reveal(cut words and use 'to hide'?) the pair of aces resting in my hand. Ms. Edith, squinting at her hand cards(to avoid repeating 'hand'), was moving it them closer to her face, and then farther to get for a better view. I cleared my throat and pointed to the eyeglasses that rested neatly on top of her silver curls. (Here you could give a hint that she's a ghost, which I learned at the end. glowing, silver curls?)

 “Raise a quarter,” she challenged. I pondered her face, and then my own (I have a hard time cutting the word 'own' too, but it isn't needed.) hand.

 “Fold, let’s see ‘em.”
Ms. Edith lay her full house down.pPay up, Felix,” Sshe stopped short, looking at a spot behind me. Spence and I turned to look. (Looking can be assumed.)

A light, growing brighter shimmered in the air, growing brighter. Now it was our turn to squint. (I think I'd put a paragraph break here.) “Well, it’s about darn time!” Ms. Edith grinned and stood up. Shoving her pile of cash toward Spence and me, she straightened her skirt and walked toward the light. “Bye, fellas.,Sshe waved and stepped into it the light and... disappeared, leaving me gaping after her in shock. 

“What just happened?" I asked Spence. 
“Edith moved on to a better place,” he said.  (You can take off this tag.)

"Moved on, how?" I hadn’t seen any spirits move on before, which made me curious (This is understood.); how did we move on and where do we go? (Here it would be great to get a little more information. Just a sentence or two of quick background information. Does he know many spirits? How long has he known about spirits? Is this something he deals with everyday? Is Spence his mentor/boss what?)
(This needs it's own paragraph. And now you need a tag.) “When we have fulfilled our purpose in the afterlife, we move on to our final place," Spence said.

“Final place, as in heaven and hell?, Tthose are real?”“Wow, kid, I figured you knew.”  

I like how this piece starts with a card game and I love the surprise ending. But I think it suffers from a lack of exposition that could make it so much richer! 

We don't know anything about the character here. Is Spence the boss/mentor of Felix? Felix already knows about ghosts, but yet doesn't know specifics. It's interesting and I wanted more in the 1st page to inform me a little about what was happening. And also maybe a hint that the lady was a ghost.

Pretty good first page and I liked the surprise. Hope this helps. 



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Fall 1st Hop Critique 7

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 20 November 2014 · 30 views

I'll give a shot at some first page comments. Keep in mind that feedback on a first page is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The hop is now closed. Be sure to finish up your critiques. Writers at the beginning and ending of the list should critique each other. If you have a revision, you can ask for feedback on the #Fall1stHop hashtag. 
Query Hop coming in December so stay tuned!
The random number generator picks 36!

Here is the first page without comments:

MG Action-Adventure


The mess hall smells like tortillas.


"Mexican food!" I dash inside, just to make sure it's actually Mexican food and not Russian like last time. Sometimes the cooks like to keep us on our toes. “You’re training to be spies,” they tell us. “Check before you make assumptions.”


Only at the United States Spying Association School would the cooks tell us to “check before making assumptions.”


My heart leaps when I see the spread of food. Rows of enchiladas and tortillas and tacos and burritos and Spanish rice lay out in front of me like a giant, gorgeous, glittering rainbow.


MEXICAN FOOD!!!!!!!


"YES!" I pump my fist in the air. Several people stare at me as I run back to my spot in line, but I ignore them.


Without looking up from his book--ew, it's Crime and Punishment--Alexander Joyner asks me, "So, is it actually Mexican food?"


"Yes! This school year is kicking off to a great start!" I bounce on my toes, grabbing a couple paper plates and distributing them: one for Alexander, who somehow manages to keep his book open with one hand; one for Jackie Davis, who's staring off into space as usual; and two for me, because I always get too much food and the paper plates are really flimsy.


"Better get three," Harold McCarthy says from in front of me without turning his head.


I stick out my tongue at the back of his head and grab a third plate.


With my crazy comments:
MG Action-Adventure


The mess hall smells like tortillas. Interesting that it says mess hall and not lunch room for an MG. That's a good kind of question to raise. But wouldn't tortillas have a lot less smell to them, than say, the spicy meat?


"Mexican food!" I dash inside, just to make sure it's actually Mexican food and not Russian like last time. Sometimes the cooks likepull a fast one (Because 'like' is less interesting and you used 'like' in the last sentence.) to keep us on our toes. “You’re training to be spies,” they tell us. “Check before you make assumptions.”


Only at the United States Spying Association School would the cooks tell us to “check before making assumptions.” (This directly repeats what's already been said. Try wording it differently.) Only at the United States Spying Association School can food smells lead you wrong.


My heart leaps when I see at (filtering) the spread of food. Rows of enchiladas and tortillas, and tacos and burritos, and Spanish rice lay out in front of me like in a giant, gorgeous, glittering rainbow.


MEXICAN FOOD!!!!!!! (I directly heard an editor at a writer conference during the 1st page critique time slot say to avoid doing this with exclamation points. Show the excitement with your prose and not the punctuation. Maybe something about how his stomach rumbles or his mouth drools. MG kids like drool.) Or even better, just use the fist pump from below and cut this.


"YES!" I pump my fist in the air. Several people Heads turn to stare at me as I run back to my spot in line, but I ignore them.


Without looking up from his book--ew, it's Crime and Punishment(I'd think it wouldn't matter so much what book, just the fact that he's reading to begin with.)--Alexander Joyner asks me, "So, is it actually Mexican food?" Interesting that he can't be bothered to look. That wouldn't really make a very good spy who I assume would have to be curious.


"Yes.! This school year is kicking off to a great start.!" I bounce on my toes, grabbing a couple of paper plates and distributing them: one for Alexander, who somehow manages to keep his book open with one hand; one for Jackie Davis, who's staring off into space as usual; and two for me, because I always get too much food and the paper plates are really flimsy.


"Better get three," Harold McCarthy says from in front of me without turning his head.


I stick out my tongue (I think rolling his eyes would be enough. The sticking out of his tongue seems too juvenile for MG.) at the back of his head and grab a third plate.

I can't really grab onto it, but I feel like something is missing here. We get that the character is very attached to Mexican food, but that's about all we know that he/she cares about. I do think you are wise not to get into why the character is at the school yet.

She/He's got a few friends as witnessed by the plate grabbing. But s/he acts younger than the MG age group because of the enthusiasm. I'm afraid such enthusiasm would get tiresome if it covers a whole book. Not to sound rough, but it makes the character seem a little cartoonish. 

Is there a reason s/he's so happy for the meal? Has it been long since s/he ate? Or long since s/he ate Mexican? What's motivating it? Giving a reason would help make the character seem more real.  


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The Scoop on Literary Auctions!

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 19 November 2014 · 29 views

I recently did a post about the submission process. However, I don't know much about the excitement of literary auctions, so I've asked Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management to explain how they work.

Thanks, Clelia! I'm wishing this on all my friends!  


If you have reached the auction stage of publishing your book, then congratulations are in order – that means you have successfully finished your manuscript, impressed an agent enough to represent you, successfully made it through the submissions process, and have multiple publishers interested in purchasing your book for publication who are prepared to vie against each other for your work! An auction also happens if your agent has deemed your work a particularly hot commodity and knows many will be interested. Obviously, auctions don’t happen to every author and it is a wonderful situation, indeed.
The agent manages the auction which will have at least two participating publishers. At Martin Literary Management, we have an auction form that we have the publishers fill out that includes information like the advance offer, royalty rates, subsidiary rights, marketing and publicity plan, option clause, print run, etc. We want to know as much information as possible, because it is not just the advance offer that is important—there are many other factors that can help an author make their final decision.
The agent sets a date and time by which offers must be submitted. The auction is blind so the publishers do not know what the other publishers’ offers are. Once the agent has all of the offers, there can be a winner, or the auction could go another round if the offers are similar or if another publisher is willing to match the highest bidder.

Ultimately, choosing a publisher is the author’s decision. The author may want to go with the publisher offering the highest advance, but other important factors have been laid out that help inform the author which publisher may be the best fit for them.

--------------------------------------------

It was when Clelia first read Charlotte's Web in the first grade that she got hooked by the magic of books. Her love of children's books carried through adulthood and she is delighted to dedicate her life to bringing quality books and stories to young (and whimsical adult!) readers.

Clelia is originally from New Jersey. She currently divides her time between Seattle and New York. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Boston College. She received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law and practiced law as a corporate litigator in New York City.

In 2011, she decided to dedicate her career to books and reentered graduate school at Emerson College. In 2013, she received her master's degree in Publishing and Writing. While she was studying publishing and taking creative writing courses at Emerson, Clelia worked as a managing editorial intern in the children's book division at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Clelia also honed her editorial skills as an editorial intern at Oxford University Press. She also taught academic writing and research courses to freshman students at Emerson College. 


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Fall 1st Hop Critique 6

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 18 November 2014 · 31 views

I'll give a shot at some first page comments. Keep in mind that feedback on a first page is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The hop is now closed. Be sure to finish up your critiques. Writers at the beginning and ending of the list should critique each other. If you have a revision, you can ask for feedback on the #Fall1stHop hashtag. 
Query Hop coming in December so stay tuned!
The random number generator picks 12!

Here is the first page without comments:

Adult Science Fiction- WIP
CHAPTER ONE

LAKE ERIE HURON, OHIO 1966  

John Wilson was a normal twelve-year-old boy obsessed with murder. He drew from his vivid imagination and spun wild gruesome stories. Some stories he wrote down and handed in as class assignments. Others stories, he would just start talking about while at the dinner table. All of the tales were about murder and he could never seem to stop talking. 

“John, please for the love of God. Stop,” his mother begged. It wasn’t that she didn’t love John, but she just couldn’t understand his fascination with wild fantasies. His older sister Sarah and younger sister Janie actually started to run away from John as he started to tell a story. 

“But, mom, I just wanted to share with you. Maybe you should call the police.”

“John, stop that nonsense. You have never been out of the State of New Mexico. How could you have witnessed a murder in Ohio?” Nina Wilson regretted asking that question as soon as the words left her lips. She knew better than to indulge these fantasies. 

“I was there. I was there just like all of the other times.”

Nina threw her hands up in the air and turned to face John. Her eyes burned with a fury. John had seen it before and recognized that he was in trouble. But no amount of beatings would stop his visions.“Go to your room. Not another word.” Nina commanded.

John sulked off to his room. But he could not get the image of the dead man out of his mind. 


And with my crazy comments:

Adult Science Fiction WIP
CHAPTER ONE

LAKE ERIE HURON, OHIO 1966  

John Wilson was a normal twelve-year-old boy obsessed with murder. He drew from his vivid imagination and spun wildcomma gruesome stories. Some stories he wrote down and handed in as class assignments. Others stories, he would just start talking about brought up while at the dinner table. All of the tales were about murder and he could never seem to stop talking. Maybe instead of this telling, you could use dialogue of John telling one of his gruesome stories. Then you can allow the reader to 'get' that he's obsessed.

“John, please for the love of God. Stop,” his mother begged. It wasn’t that she didn’t love John, but she just couldn’t understand his fascination with wild fantasies. His older sister Sarah and younger sister Janie (not sure we need to know which is older or younger on the first page. Maybe save space for more important details. His two sisters Sarah and Janie) actually started to run away from John as he started to tell a story. (Also you could show them running away. "Mom," Sarah huffed, "can I be excused." "Me too," Janie said, eager to escape.)

“But, mMom, I just wanted to share with you(Doesn't feel like this is the right phrasing. It's too calm. But, Mom, you have to do something.). Maybe you should call the police.”

“John, stop that nonsense. You have never been out of the State of New Mexico. How could you have witnessed a murder in Ohio?” Nina Wilson regretted asking that question as soon as the words left her lips. She knew better than to (Filtering.) Never indulge these fantasies. 

“I was there. I was there, just like all of the other times.”

Nina threw her hands up in the air and turned to face John. Her eyes burned with a fury. John had seen it before and recognized that he was in trouble. (Show.) John went silent, recognizing trouble. (You're doing some head hopping here. We're getting the inner thoughts of first Mom and now John. That's fine if your story is 3rd person omniscient, but that POV is not used much nowadays. Most writers use 3rd person limited which means only one person's thoughts in a scene.) But no amount of beatings would stop his visions.“Go to your room. Not another word.” Nina commanded.  

John sulked off (Show) dragged his feet all the way to his room. But he could not get the image of the dead man out of his mind. (Since you didn't describe the image, this really falls flat. Get it into the first paragraph with dialogue.) 

Pretty strong for a WIP, but it still has a lot of telling, and we're missing the emotion of what John saw. I'm guessing this is a prologue. Prologues are already suspect by agents as being unnecessary so you really need it to have an impact. Punch up the emotion. Is John desperate to have his visions acted upon? Is it hurting him that no one takes him seriously? Show what's motivating John. 

From the first paragraph, I mistook this for him having a wild imagination. But what's happening is something else. Go with that and ramp up the emotion and sense of urgency.

Hope this helps.


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Notes from the 2014 Indiana Writing Workshop

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 17 November 2014 · 35 views

The workshop was run by Chuck Sambuchino who works for Writer's Digest and edits the Guide to Literary Agents, besides writing his own books. It was full of great insights, and I've put a few together for everyone. Please pardon the fact that the tidbits jump all over the place and are in no particular order.

And don't miss a chance to see Chuck Sambuchino in person if he comes to your area. He is both informative and hilarious. The day flew past! Please follow him and check out Writer's Digest for so much more advice and information.

Tips and Information about writing, agents, and querying:

-Wattpad and other internet services which allow you to put up parts of your manuscript are okay. But take down that information when you start to query and avoid putting it on your blogs.

-Write for love and for money. Meaning do some projects specifically because they are commercial.

-Your publisher should help with getting the rights to use song lyrics or quotes in your manuscript. They can tell you what has to be taken out of your manuscript.

-Agents form a partnership with you and their job is to be the bad cop. (I really like this analogy.) They deal with any problems you have with your publisher or other source so you can stay on everyone's good side.

-Italics and exclamation marks are crutches in a manuscript that writers use to convey intensity. Let your writing convey the urgency and avoid a flood of !!!

-Telling in dialogue is used to lead the reader. Dialogue still needs to be something a character would actually say. For example: Mom, have you seen my lucky pen that I took when visiting my favorite tourist attraction and that won me my Pulitzer?  Wouldn't Mom already know all these details and putting them in the sentence is merely to inform the reader?  

-Seven parts of query: introduce the main character, something unique about them or their motivation, inciting incident, basic plot of the book, how does it get complicated, unclear wrap-up, and stakes.

-Make your query full of specific details. This is so important and several examples were given from movies. Avoid cliche. After reading much query slush in contests, I totally agree with this one.

-Chapter one traps- starts too slow, lacks tension, conflict or a problem/trouble, avoid information dumps, the less you tell the more good questions you raise.

-Recognize the value of your past work and steal from it. For example stretching out shorts into full length stories. I did this with a short story and it's the manuscript that landed my agent.

-Success is directional proportional to the time you put it in.

Tips and Information about traditional versus self-publishing: 

-Traditional publishing gives you help with your manuscript and costs you nothing in return. You get some marketing, editing, book covers, placement in bookstores. In return you give up more royalties, it's much slower, and you are at the whim of others.

Self-publishing lets you keep control, it's faster and there are lots of options out there. The royalties are all yours. Quality can be inferior and there is still a stigma attached. Plus you are responsible for everything unless you pay someone. It can be hard to sell subsidiary rights. 

-The best way to make money after you're a know writer is to self-publish your short stories and any side-works yourself. Use traditional publishing to spread your name brand, then you can rely on your name recognition to makes self-publishing sales and keep the royalties for yourself.

-Fiction is only 25% of book store floor space.

-If self-publishing, a series is better from a marketing standpoint.

Tip and Information on Writer Platform:

-Fiction writers also need platform as a marketing tool.

-You have to provide value for readers with your blog or social media. You have include valuable information that keeps people coming back. Something people want.

-Consider joint blogs with other writers and guest blog posts.

-Feel free to learn by example and 'steal' ideas from other blogs.

-Evolve your blog with trial and error.

-Always have the end goal in mind-- making real connections with your followers/readers.

-Don't forget newsletters and mailing lists.

-Keep in mind search results when titling your blog posts and beginning paragraphs.



Those are the things that stood out to me at the conference. I hope they'll be helpful to you also. I had a great time meeting friends face to face for once and getting to know new people!

What's something amazing you learned at a conference?

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Interview from Me

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 16 November 2014 · 42 views

I'm out and about today! Darke Conteur invited me for an interview where I talk about my writing, my contests and query letters. Check it out if you have a minute! 

Thanks, Darke!

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Fall 1st Hop Critique 5

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 15 November 2014 · 46 views

I'll give a shot at some first page comments. Keep in mind that feedback on a first page is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The hop is now closed. Be sure to finish up your critiques. Writers at the beginning and ending of the list should critique each other. If you have a revision, you can ask for feedback on the #Fall1stHop hashtag. 
Query Hop coming in December so stay tuned!
The random number generator picks 32!

Here is the first page without comments:
YA Historical Fiction:
I, Joan Price, was born to treason. ‘Twas at my father’s funeral I realized it. If I did not choose between betraying my country and betraying my conscience, I would betray them both. Just as he had.
Our parish gave my father a Protestant funeral—buried on holy ground but unshriven, without the benefit of a priest or last rites. Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin. I pulled the hood of my wool cloak lower to hide the depths of my anger and grief. They were a window into my treasonous thoughts, and anyone might be a spy for Queen Elizabeth.
Some of the other mourners owned the implements to give my father a proper Catholic funeral, bring peace to his soul and mine, but they were too frightened to bring the bells and candles from their hiding places. Too frightened to sing or pray. I glared at them from the safety of my hood, but none even glanced at me. White-livered cowards, every one.
And I the greatest coward of all, for I said nothing. The thought of the gallows choked off my protests. Where was my loyalty?
Blessed Mary forgive me.
Songs for the deceased were forbidden, but I was Welsh. I would sooner give up breathing than singing. As they dumped the last muddy earth over my father’s final resting place, I quietly hummed the Requiem Mass and repeated the lyrics in my mind.


And with my crazy comments:
I, Joan Price, was born to treason. ‘Twas at my father’s funeral I realized it. (That's an eye catching opening.)  If I did not choose between betraying my country and betraying my conscience, I would betray them both. (If I think deeply about this, it comes out false, as of course she could do neither. That doesn't make it any less strong.)  Just as he had.
Our parish gave my father a Protestant funeral—buried on holy ground but unshriven, without the benefit of a priest or last rites.(Nice historic details. You could use a colon after 'unshriven' as what comes next is the definition. Wherever you can insert 'namely' it's correct to use a colon.)  Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin. I pulled the hood of my wool cloak lower to hide the depths of my anger and grief. They were a window into my treasonous thoughts, and anyone might be a spy for Queen Elizabeth. (The first sentence made me think the funeral had already happened, but then I find we are in the middle of it. Maybe a slight reword. Our parish arranged a Protestant funeral for my father--to be buried on ...)
Some of the other mourners owned the implements to give my father a proper Catholic(If this were adult, I'd say to cut 'Catholic' and let the proper type of funeral be implied. It's stronger that way.) funeral, bringing peace to his soul and mine, but they were too frightened to bring retrieve (You've used 'bring.') the bells and candles from their hiding places. Too frightened to sing or pray. I glared at them from the safety of my hood, but none even glanced at me. White-livered cowards, every one. (Nice voice and strong personality by the MC.)
And I the greatest coward of all, for I said nothing. The thought(image?) of the gallows choked off my protests. Where was my loyalty?
Blessed Mary forgive me.
Songs for the deceased were forbidden, but I was Welsh. I would sooner give up breathing than singing. As they dumped the last muddy earth over my father’s final resting place, I quietly hummed the Requiem Mass and repeated the lyrics in my mind.

A really strong piece that appealed to me because of my interest in Elizabethan history. I would ask to see more. 
I also think there is a nice mix of action and exposition. There's enough backstory to ground but not to become too heavy. And all the great details of a historical.
I hope this helps.




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