Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Know if You're Ready for a Literary Agent

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I recently began an internship with Hartline Literary Agency, and one thing I've discovered is how hard it is for a query to stand out in a slush pile. Agents receive multiple submissions per week. The truth is, they can't spend all of their time digging through these submissions. So how are you, an aspiring author, supposed to stand out in the midst of these proposals? 

Here's my advice: Wait. Wait until your work is 100% ready to be represented by an agent. Many--if not most--proposals that agents receive are submitted by writers who were not ready to send their book out to the world. They sacrificed quality of their writing for the sake of representation. 

So after you type THE END on your manuscript, pause a moment. Resist the urge to go rushing off to find an agent who will be eager to send your work out to publishers. 

Then, ask yourself these questions:

     1. Have I studied the industry and craft?

I don't mean simply reading a blog post here and there. Do you understand how the publishing industry works? Have you invested hours into classes, courses, and books that help take your writing to the next level? {Here are resources that might help.} And have you applied these techniques to your manuscript?

     2. Have I written my book to the best of my ability? 


Often, the idea of publication will cause us to rush the writing process, and therefore neglect to make our work shine. No, writing a book isn't necessarily fast or easy. But if we want to actually see our book in print one day, it's vital that we don't skimp in this process.

     3. Has my manuscript been critiqued and edit?


We writers don't always catch our own mistakes in our manuscript. This is why we need others who are familiar with the craft to look over our work with a critical eye. (No, a family member doesn't count ... ;) )  


     4. Is my idea unique and an appealing premise?


Being on this side of the industry has made me realize how important it is to have a unique idea that stands out in the crowd. If your idea is a fresh, interesting premise, then your chances of publication will be boosted tremendously. How can you summarize your book in 1 - 3 sentences in a way that doesn't make it sound like other books within its genre?

     5. Does the first page of my novel capture the reader from the start?


If writers took the time to rewrite the first chapter -- or even the first page -- of their manuscript, an agent may seriously consider their work. But unfortunately, this is the biggest mistake I've noticed amongst these submissions: The first chapter/page is loaded with backstory and info dump. Either that, or the story begins with an uninteresting, dull scene. 

Glance over your first page, scene, and chapter. Have you opened with conflict? Action? Does the scene move the story forward, or could the book begin later in the story? How can you weave in the backstory without giving the readers an info dump at the beginning? And finally, is the goal of your main character clear in that first chapter, and why would a reader be interested in following their journey to reach this goal? 


     6. Have I established a web presence?


Often, an agent or an editor will do an online search of a prospective author to see if they have an online platform. This is a biggie in today's industry. Even if you don't have hundreds or thousands of followers, it's important to at least set up social media accounts -- and possibly a website/blog -- so you can come across as professional and serious about your writing career. 
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Remember: Agents aren't searching for writers to reject; they're searching for writers to represent. So if you want to make their job a bit easier, wait until you can give them your absolute best work. Then, when they read your compelling premise and are unable to put down the chapters you send, they won't even have to think twice about whether or not they should offer you representation. But this will only happen if you devote necessary time into studying, writing, editing, and establishing an online presence.

Tweet: How to Know if You're Ready for a Literary Agent via @tessaemilyhall http://bit.ly/1KDcCHE #amwriting 

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If you have an agent, how long did it take you from the moment you wrote the book until you found representation? If you don't have an agent, what phase of the writing journey are you currently in?


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday's Minute Challenge: Writing prompt contest for teens & up!





A quick writing prompt challenge (and contest) for teens to get their creative juices flowing for the new week. A new prompt is posted, and winners are announced, every other Monday.



  1. The entry must be between 150 - 300 words. (In order to see how many words your entry is, write it in Microsoft Word, or you can copy and paste it here.)
  2. The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  3. The winners will receive a badge for their blog.
  4. The winner will be chosen based on the judges's preferences, as well as the following questions: Does this entry capture my attention immediately? Does it make me want to continue reading? Is the writing clear? They will also take into consideration the writer's voice and style--not necessarily technical issues, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. 
  5. This is only for fun and to stretch your writing muscles--not necessarily to be taken too seriously. =)

 


The judge panel chooses these winners based on a point system. Keep in mind that the judges are not aware of which entry belongs to which participant until after the judging is complete.


What is the point of my thoughts
if they stay
inside my head?
What good is my writing
when there is no one
to read it?
What sense is there in thinking
or dreaming?
It is all a waste, anyway.
Because me, I don't matter.
who would want to know
my feelings or ideas?
I'm just a little nobody,
Living on this earth and questioning
why.
And then I see it.
I look up to the
gray skies that
surround me,
feel the breath
which rolls off the sea,
hear the waters
crawl desperately to the
shore and collapse,
taking their rest.
I see how
You see it.
And I know
that
I am made
to share
my thoughts and feelings,
my dreams and writings,
and my little opinions
about the big wide world.
Because
if I've been touched by someone
then maybe someone is
waiting to be touched by
me.
Congratulations, Maddie! Click here for your badgeand don't forget to claim your points here. =) 



My footsteps barely make any sound on the polished floors of the castle halls as I run. Where are the servants, the royals? Everything feels deserted. The silence is eerie, and I’m reminded once again that I’m not supposed to be in here. 
I stop at a corner and glance around, trying to recall which way to go. I used to know this palace so well, but being banished for nine years has dimmed my remembrance of it. 
Biting the inside of my cheek, I choose to trust my instincts and dash right. Hurrying up a spiraling staircase, I begin to recognize things. Yes, this is the right way, a little higher and I would be near the princess’ chambers. I just have to get there undetected, or I would be one of the ones with my head in a noose at the execution tomorrow. 
I climb up the last steps and run left, not caring to quiet my footsteps, there doesn’t seem to be anyone to hear me.
Then I stop, panting, in front of the door to my destination. My fingers hover just above the doorknob. I really shouldn’t be doing this. But if I don’t Asher would be hanged tomorrow. My best friend would die. 
Gritting my teeth, I fling the door open. And freeze. 
Three guards stand in the room. Three guards I recognize well. Three guards that I had been so close to before I was banished. 
The nearest one turns to me. “Calvin.” His voice is without emotion. “Now do you think that was a good idea? Sneaking into the princess’ chambers unaware …” he tsked. “Did you really think that would happen?” 

No. I just had to try. But now it looks like both Asher and I will be meeting our Maker tomorrow.
Congratulations, Savannah P.Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)


My display flickers to life. "Hello, Wren." The cursor flashes at the end of the sentence, as though someone will be sending me even more words to read. "You may be wondering what happened to you." I was right. "Don’t worry, we won’t hurt you. Once you get used to your new body, we will leave you alone. Write what you want to say on a piece of paper, then look at it. We can see what you see.” I swing my legs to the floor, as I had done many times with my prosthetics. I fall to the floor. "Yes, you may want to take it slow, darling. It can be difficult to use your legs at first." I pause. My legs… are these just new prosthetics? I look down, seeing a pair of shiny legs laying on the floor, attached to me at the mid-thigh. Scar tissue rings the edge of the metallic limbs where they meet my skin. I scan my room in the old cabin. The bunk bed is still here, and my paper is still in the same spot. I pull myself over. Reaching my left arm up I see more metal - connecting to me at the elbow. My fingers are bare, my beloved ring gone.I grab a pen and paper. "What happened to me?" I scrawl.
"You were caught in an explosion at the ward. We had to give you new legs, a new arm, and we added some new circuitry to your brain."
I pause. ”So I’m a cyborg now?""No you’re a mechanically modified citizen (MMC).""So a cyborg?"The cursor blinks a few more times, as if the person is hesitating on what to say. Then I finally get an answer-three letters that send me into panic.“Yes."
Congratulations, Olivia! Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

Honorable Recognitions

  1. Lace
  2. Esther
  3. Mary B

    Thanks so much to everyone who participated!


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    • Submit your response in the comments below, or post it on your blog via InLink (below).
    • Your response should range between 150 - 300 words. 
    • The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
    • If you'd rather not submit your post in the comments or on your blog, you may email it to me instead.





    Choose at least one:

    Note: You can always combine the prompts into one entry.

    (Optional) Write a passage continuing your entry from last week week (or whichever week you'd prefer). If you can, try to continue it using one of the following prompts.
    • Write a passage using these items: mask, wings, cage (submitted by Olivia)
    • Write a passage based on this picture (submitted by Maddie)
    • Write a passage either incorporating this phrase OR based on this phrase:  

      "Sun? In July? You've got to be kidding me!" (submitted by Esther)
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    Post your entry on your blog!:


    If you're posting your entry on your blog, please add your link below:






    Submit your prompt idea!:

    The prompts that are used for Monday's Minute Challenge are submitted by the participants. 

    Here's how this works:
    • You will be able to submit 3 prompts each week in the same format as above: three objects, one picture, and a piece of dialogue or phrase.
    • On Mondays, I will choose 3 prompts that have been submitted by 3 different people.
    • If your prompt is selected, you will receive 2 points!
    • You may submit in the comments below.
    • You must only submit prompt ideas if you have participated in this week's contest. Otherwise, your prompts will not be considered.  

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    Monday, February 1, 2016

    5 Reasons Why Teens Should Attend a Writing Conference

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    It's hard to believe that last fall, at twenty-one-years-old, I attended my tenth writing conference.
    I was sixteen when I attended my first {you can read about that experience here}. It was at this conference that I met the future publisher for Purple Moon, as well as lifelong writer friends (including Author Katy Kauffman, whose first book was published within a month of mine).

    With my publisher, Eddie Jones -- 19-years-old
    With author and writing friend, Katy Kauffman -- 16-years-old

    Throughout the years, I've continued to make new writer friends at conferences, grown in my craft immensely, met my literary agents, and landed an internship with Hartline Literary Agency -- all thanks to these writing conferences. 
    Is it absolutely vital that an aspiring author attend a conference? Of course not. It is possible to land an agent/publisher without attending one. 


    However, conferences do increase your chances of signing with a literary agent. Not only that, but you have the chance to make face-to-face connections. It's impossible to express just how valuable these conferences are if you have not been to one before.


    And now that the conference season is approaching, I've decided to reflect on the reasons why I'm grateful I attended conferences as a teen. 

    Here are the top 5 reasons why you should, too:


    1. Conferences provide the opportunity to learn about the industry and craft.


    Agents are searching for writers who are not only familiar with the industry, but those who are willing to invest in their writing craft as well. They are not searching for the writer who has the "I'm already a perfect writer" attitude. Truth is: Every writer--no matter how experienced or well-read--has room to grow. 


    2. Relationships are key in this industry.


    Conferences provide the opportunity to network with other writers and professionals. Sure, you can network on social media. But on-screen networking does not offer the same personalization that face-to-face connections provide. You never know--the friend you make that first year at a conference could become your literary agent or publisher a few years down the road!   


    3. You'll leave inspired.


    Often, writing can drain us of inspiration. The well runs out at times--especially when we feel as though we're in this career on our own. We need to surround ourselves with writers every now and then. People who can help brainstorm with us, those who might understand what we're going through. And we need to attend classes that remind us of the reasons why we love the power of words. Trust me: Your fingers will be itching to create through the keyboard by the end of a conference!


    4. Conferences give you an "insider" look on the writing career. 


    As an aspiring author, it's easy to hold assumptions that being an author is a glamorous career. But by attending a conference, you'll view the industry as it is: The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is especially helpful for teens, because it will give you the chance to gain better insight as to whether or not you should pursue this vocation. 

    5. Conferences provide the opportunity to enter into contests. 


    Most writing conferences hold writing contests that the attendees can enter. These contests provide the perfect opportunity for aspiring authors to gain credentials, seek input on their novel by industry professionals, and potentially have their work viewed by an agent and/or publisher. Even if you do not have a completed book, you can still enter contests for a short story, novella, devotion, article, essay, etc. If you receive awards as a teen, think about how good that will look on your writing resume!


    20-years-old -- When Purple Moon received a 2014 Selah Award in YA Fiction & First Novel


    At every conference I've attended -- even the small ones -- I've left with an immense amount of information, inspiration, creativity, business cards, and notes. (And empty coffee cups, of course. ;)

    Writing, of course, is a solitude career. These conferences give writers the chance to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are headed along the same path. I'm reminded of the scripture Proverbs 27:17 {NIV}, which states: 

    "As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other."

    Be aware, though, that as a teen, you will probably stand out because of your age. (Unless there is a teen track, of course.) But don't allow that to keep you from taking your writing journey seriously. Besides, most adults are very supportive and encouraging of teen writers. =) 


    Tweet: 5 Reasons Why Teens Should Attend a Writing Conference @tessaemilyhall #teenwriters #amwriting

    Have you attended a writing conference? If not, are you interested in attending one?


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