Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Contest Winners

March was a great month for contests here on the Critique Sisters Corner. First we want to shout out a huge thank you to our new followers. We are excited to get to know all of you better and look forward to entertaining and helping you with our posts. Now for the winners!

The winner of first giveaway, The Clearing by Anne Riley, is: Kari of Under The Fairy Dust! Yay Kari! I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. Please leave us a comment and we'll get that sent off to you.

The winner of the Critique Sisters Corner portion of Carolina's Agent Signing Mega giveaway is Kristi! Kristi has not yet emailed us back to let us know whether she chose 2011 Guide To Literary Agents or Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass but we know she'll enjoy either one!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Dreaded Query Letter

If you're like me you'd almost rather have a root canal than write a query letter. I have a little secret for you though. It doesn't have to be painful. Think of this post as your Novocain. Query letters are so much harder because they aren't writing so much as they are selling. A query letter is more akin to a sales pitch than a novel. But there are a few keys to making them easier.

Try to write your query letter in your character's voice. Not from their point of view, but with the flavor that is particular to them. This will make it feel less like you're talking about yourself and more like they're talking about their own story. I've found this helps a lot because it's the talking about myself part that I don’t like. However, when it comes time for the bio paragraph you need to switch to your own voice.

A good standard to follow for a query letter is this: Some kind of personal greeting saying why you chose to query this particular agent (their interests, blog, clients, whatever drew you to them), a logline or one sentence pitch (though this isn't necessary), one to two short paragraphs that cover the basics of your novel, a paragraph about yourself (include publishing credits, awards, writing organizations you belong to, author mentors), then a closing sentence. At the end don't forget to include your email address and phone number.

*Be confident and polite, not apologetic or pleading.
*Never query for a rough draft, only a thoroughly revised novel.
*Revise your query letter as much as you revised your novel.
*Do your research and choose agents carefully.
*Don't 'blanket' query a standard letter to every agent.
*Take your time on each submission.
*Keep track of the queries you send out.
*Read guidelines thoroughly and follow them.

This month the wonderfully peeps at WriteOnCon are hosting three fantastic opportunities for you to have your query letter critiqued by an agent. YA Fantasy Guide is also doing a contest where the winner will receive a query letter critique from agent Tamar Rydzinski. My friend Shelley Watters is doing a one line pitch contest where the winner receives an entire manuscript request from agent Suzie Townsend! Check back here next week when I'll be posting my query letter for my new novel so my Sisters, and you, can critique it. Now get clicking on those contests!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Short Synopsis

It's conference season again, and for those of you madly putting together marketing materials to use in your follow-ups to agent and editor requests, I thought I'd pull out my notes on writing a short synopsis from last year's PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Associaiton) Conference.  The advice comes from three excellent sources:  two best-selling novelists, Bob Mayer and Robert Dugoni, and an outstanding fiction editor, Elizabeth Lyon.  Dugoni and Mayer made presentations on the subject.  Lyon's suggestions are from her book, A Writer's Guide to Fiction.  Here are their guidelines for assembling your short synopsis:

1.  Main story arc from beginning to end.
2.  Only three names on the page:  protagonist, antagonist and one major supporting character.
3.  Give the ending
4.  Goal:  get the reader to know it's a good story so they want to turn the page to the rest of the submission.  If they don't, your novel will never get seen by them.

Broad Strokes
1.  Don't overpopulate it. Take the main plot and main character and run with that.
2.  Almsot everything relates to the physical journey of the protagonist, but keep in mind the emotional journey and the through-line, as well.
3.  Best way to write it is to use story structure—beginning, middle, end (but use this as a guide, not a rule). Use five main questions (also addressed in query letter) to fill in the story structure:
a) who is the protagonist?
b) what is the protagonist?
c) where is the protagonist?
d) what is the protagonist's goal?
e) what is the protagonist's obstacle?

4.  Beginning:  open with the call to adventure/refusal of the call. What happened? Why does the protagonist resist, but have to do whatever has to be done herself or himself?
5.  Middle:  identify the tests/obstacles that show up—1, 2, 3, 4 or more. these are the sequences of events. They should never be the same or show the same strengths of the protagonist.
6.  End:  the result of it all:  the quest will go beyond whatever the external goal was, and the protagonist may find previously unrealized inner strength as his/her own truths are revealed.

Broad Strokes
1.  Synopsis describes how a plot carries out the story promise (fulfillment of unmet issue of human need) by the protagonist, who is driven by the core issue or need.
2.  One-page, single-spaced when sent with a first query letter.
3.  Use active, strong, evocative verbs and concrete, specific nouns.
4.  Contains the entire story:  beginning, middle, end. Include plot points and emotional turning points. Leave out subplots unless understanding the main plot depends on them, then sketch only.

5.  Open with a statement of the story yearning, such as a narrative hook, or by showing it embedded in action. Include the novel's setting, time period, background and situation. Make this dramatic, colorful and brief.
6.  Introduce main characters with a short sketch, beginning with the protagonist and including his/her goal and what's at stake. Indicate the protagonist's fatal flaws (weaknesses stemming from past trauma) and state the character strength that defines his/her heroism. Show how the protagonist is the driving force of the story. Sketch the antagonist and other main characters or integrate them into a plot summary.
7.  End by showing what the protagonist learns or realizes that supports fulfillment of the story yearning or theme. (Implied here is that the protagonist has overcome his/her weakness.)

Best of luck with this important task!  As Bob Dugoni pointed out, it's the hardest thing of all to write.  If you have a friend who's read your book, have them help.   Here's hoping you get through it with panache and have a great time at conferences meeting and getting to know those agents and editors. And if you're not going to a conference, you'll still have a great synopsis to include with your query letters.

~ Linda

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recipe For Hope

Highs and Lows of writing...

Queries. Rejections. Conferences. Agents. Partials. Fulls. Rejection.

We all want our work to be good enough to be published. And when agents aren’t pounding down our door to sign us, we take it personal. Some quit. Some revise. A couple weeks ago I learned that many of us drink wine, eat chocolate, cry, and then we get back to work.

But what happens when we lose hope? 

When we have it we’re Happy, Optimistic, Positive, and have the Energy to accomplish anything. When hope is lost, we have no reason to get our butts out of bed. The world turns a murky shade of grey and the flavor of life is gone. The answer—Don’t lose it. But if you do wake up and it’s gone, you can get it back and I have the recipe.

Recipe for Hope:

·      Two cups of belief.
·      A handful of writer friends.
·      One cup of tears.
·      Three ounces of dedication.
·      1 tbs. of confidence.
·      ½ cup of perseverance.
·      One tsp. of vanilla.
·      One box of chocolate.
·      1 bottle of wine.

In a large bowl pour in belief, then add a handful of writer friends. Toss lightly until thoroughly mixed. In a separate bowl mix dedication, confidence and perseverance, and beat.  When you think you’ve got the lumps out, continue to beat for two additional minutes. Pour the dedication, confidence and perseverance mixture into the belief mixture. Add the cup of tears, and blend with the vanilla.

Pour the entire mixture into the bathtub and add hot water. While the water is running, pour yourself a glass of wine, and open the chocolate. When the tub is full, submerse yourself. Sip your wine. Eat your chocolate. Soak in the essence of hope. And know that you can do anything.

You can have hope anytime you want it. It doesn’t have to go away. Make the choice to be Happy, Optimistic, Positive, and create your own Energy. If not today… tomorrow will be your day. Just believe and bathe in hope. 

Enjoy the Journey! 
~ Karlene

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Critique Group Questionaire

Choosing a critique group is not something you should do lightly. Everyone has a differently style and different needs. It's important that you choose a group that works well for you. It is only by trial and error that my critique sisters and I have found one another. It occurred to me that there should be an easier way. From that realization came the critique group questionnaire. These are things you need to know about your fellow critiquers so you may understand one another's needs and expectations better and can get more out of your sessions.

1) What type of critiques do you give?
    A. Honest, no holds barred
    B. Constructive criticism, pointing out both good and bad
    C. Praise only
2) What type of critique are you prepared to accept (be totally honest)?
    A. Honest, no holds barred
    B. Constructive criticism, pointing out both good and bad
    C. Praise only
3) Will you be bringing a completed first draft to the sessions or is it a work in progress?
4) Are you comfortable critiquing works in genres other than your own?
5) Are you comfortable receiving critiques from writers who write genres other than your own?
6) What would you most like help with from the group?
    A. Story structure, character development, flow, voice
    B. Grammar, basic sentence structure help, spelling
    C. All of the above
7) What types of books do you read on a recreational basis?
8) What books on the craft of writing have you read?
9) Do you/have you attended conferences, workshops, or writer's retreats?
10) How would you like to exchange material?
     A. email
     B. In person
     C. Through snail mail
11) How often are you prepared to critique and how much at a time?
12) How much of your work do you want critiqued?
      A. Entire novel
      B. Select chapters
      C. Select pages
13) Please suggest a plan for exchanging critiques.
This list should help you not only choose those you will work best with, but it should also help get you started with a critiquing plan. Best of luck creating and maintaining your critique groups!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writer's Block

Have you ever experienced any of the following?

- staring at the blank page without a clue as to where or how to begin
- a rejection from an agent or editor/publisher, which throws you into a fit
   of depression
- a critique that rang loud inside your head with the message, not good 
   enough!, even though it actually included much praise and excellent
- an overwhelming sense that the deck is stacked against you, given the odds
   of getting published
- a compulsive need to go back and revise again and again each time you
   learn something new or realize there are imperfections in your manuscript
- dread of the pages full of words that need to be revised
- heart-pounding cold sweats at the thought of pitching your story idea to an
   agent or editor, or of going on a book tour
- nightmares where you are on a book tour and your underwear is showing
- dread of being published and getting one bad review after another, or of
   having nothing left to say

There are more! Nasty little anxiety-provoking events and obsessions. You know them, and you know any one of them can lead you like a lemming into the Dreaded Writer's Block (not to be confused with the Block where the Dreaded Writer lives—more on that in a later post, when I know for sure he's out of town).  No, this is the one where you feel like you've walked into a giant brown paper bag and someone stapled the open end shut. You're stuck. No way out. You can breathe, sort of, if you don't do anything strenuous. Like putting words on paper (you don't have your computer, smart phone, iPad, iTouch or any other technology with you in this scenario, but you do have a pencil, and you're surrounded by brown paper).

Okay, I'm already hearing the howls of protest from certain quarters. "No such thing! Just power through it! Go for a walk!"  Well, I can tell you that if I go for a walk when I'm finding it impossible to write, the breakthrough that happens is that I find out, once again, that I love to walk!  So then, the only thing I can do is give myself a break. Spend some quality time gazing at the sky, followed by more time gazing at the patrons in my favorite coffee shop. Then, to avoid offending people who don't like being stared at, maybe I'll buy a book and start reading an author new to me, one who writes just like I wanted to when I got blocked, but I couldn't get a handle on it.  Hey, this author is a perfect example to emulate!

And there it is. I've finally fought my way out of that paper bag. It's convoluted, but everyone has their process. If you never get writer's block, I bow down to you in admiration and abject envy. If you do get it, though, is there something that helps you get back on the page?


Friday, March 18, 2011

Character Development

"You need more character development."

What does that mean? How do you do develop your characters in 90,000 words? Especially when you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a couple other main characters. 

An additional challenge in my novel is that the entire novel spans the course of a week. One week to show, not tell, that my antagonist is a sociopath.

I've pondered this question for three weeks. Flashback came to mind. I personally don't dislike flashbacks, but I'm thinking not in this particular novel. There has to be a better way.  I came up with a solution yesterday, and rewrote chapter one. Added a new chapter two. Stole the second half of chapter one and made it chapter three. Fun. And I think it works.

What I did was add a cat. Not just any cat, but my protagonist's cat that she's had longer than the husband and kids. I showed the love in chapter one. My protagonist's loving and concerned husband had a disagreement about her working, and he stormed out of the room. My protagonist leaves with the kids to walk them to the school bus. Chapter two, her husband hears the door close, returns to the kitchen and peers out the window. Then he picks up old kitty and puts her in a pink pillow case, ties it closed with a shoe lace from his wife's tennis shoe, and buries her alive in the back yard in his wife's flower bed. Bulbs, waiting to be planted. Can you guess who the antagonist is?

If this doesn't set the stage and show that my antagonist is a sociopath, I'm not sure what will. The reader will know that he's capable of anything. Thoughts?

If you have ideas on character building, we would love to hear them.

Enjoy the journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Finding Help Around the Blogosphere

No wonder we feel we've found our peeps when we hook into blogs related to our endeavors. Bloggers can be tremendously helpful to each other.  They share their expertise, ideas, encouragement and more.  It's like having a support group that actually gets what we're going through (because they do). This is a great community with so much to offer.

Here are some of my favorite blog sites where I find useful info about writing craft, the publishing industry, staying sane (more or less), and more, as I go through the journey toward publication.

First of all, the wonderfully helpful Lydia Kang, whose blog is The Word is My Oyster ( Lydia is a doctor, and on Mondays she answers specific medical questions from writers. If you are writing a story that includes a medical situation that you're not absolutely sure about, Lydia has your answer. I emailed her Monday this week with a question, and got my answer Tuesday. Here's the correspondence:

Hi Lydia,
I have a character who is the victim of an attempted murder.  He's hit on the back of his head (base of skull), with a hard-swung rifle butt.  In my story, hours go by before he's found and taken to the hospital, where surgery is performed to remove some cranial bone and relieve the pressure.  I have them having to drain the hematoma three times in two days, and his life hanging in the balance.  Is this a realistic scenario, and would the diagnosis be subdural hematoma?  

Hi Linda,
Yes your set up for this situation is mostly accurate. Most of the time, if a surgeon has to do a craniotomy and remove the blood clot for a subdural, he/she will find the broken blood vessel and repair it (cauterize or tie it off) and decrease the chance of it rebleeding. But it is possible it might rebleed. Three times would be very bad luck, indeed.
Hope that helps!

She's published answers to far more complicated questions that include in-depth, time-consuming research to provide medical accuracy. This kind of support is invaluable. Thank you, Lydia!

Other terrific blogs that offer help and needed information:

Lindsey Edwards, The Write Words ( Lindsey offers a HUGE list of worthwhile links on Tuesdays, called Top Links for Writers. She covers industry news, the craft of writing, author promotion, and if that's not enough, miscellaneous (and more!).

Heather McCorkle, (yup, that's CSC's very own Heather) at her other blog, Heather's Odyssey ( Heather does Twitter Tuesdays, where she provides links for the best tweets of the week regarding industry info., agents, author development, etc. It's a great way to follow the valuable stuff on Twitter without spending hours every day on it. Amazing.

Stina Lindblatt, Seeing Creative ( Stina does Cool Link Fridays, where she lists links to valuable writing craft and other information she's found on other blogs during the week. A great way to find blogs to follow, as well as get information that you can use. I found the following two blogs through Stina:

L. B. Diamond, Diamond-Yup, Like the Stone ( Laura is a psychiatrist who covers pressing life topics, and does Mental Health Monday posts on issues we have to deal with as people and as writers.

Sarah Fine, The Strangest Situation ( Sarah is a child psychologist who is writing YA. Her blog is devoted to psychology and YA lit, but is useful even beyond that to any of us wanting to write the raw stuff of things like bullying, one of the topics she recently covered in depth.

Two publishing industry professionals I enjoy:   Nathan Bransford (, author and previous literary agent.  Who doesn't love Nathan?  He offers a wide range of great info and insight and laughs.  And Jessica Faust (, a literary agent who is thoughtful, knowledgeable and realistic.

Other faves for encouragement and sharing the journey and great links:  Michael DiGesu at In Time (, and Erica and Christy at erica and christy ( And a new fun find from Karlene: Nicole Durbin, Immersed in the World ( Life, travel, food, mmmm.

There are so many more, I wish there was room for them all!  

I'll just close by adding that a week from today Heather will post an entry here at CSC that we hope will be helpful to all of you who are looking for a critique group. Hint:  it involves a questionnaire to help people find the right critique group for them.  Be sure to come back and check it out!

So, do you have a favorite helpful blog you can share here with us? We'd love to add to our list. (Personally, I'm especially interested in great bloggers in the mystery/suspense or historical fiction fields. Any you have to share would be appreciated.)  Thank you!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Carolina's Agent Signing Mega Giveaway

A friend of the Critique Sisters~and a wonderful lady~Carolina Valdez Miller just signed with agent Vickie Motter! If you don't know who Carolina is yet click on her name to find out. She is one of the sweetest people you could ever hope to know and she's been working long and hard on accomplishing her goals. When someone like her achieves something so great it is cause for celebration! The fact that agents are still looking, still falling in love with books, and still signing clients means the industry is still going strong. That's something we all need to celebrate because you never who could be next, it could be you!

This is one mega party peeps. Carolina wants to give back and pay it forward~because she is fabulous like that~and we wanted to help her. That means some great giveaways for you! Here are the prizes you can enter to win:

*From Heather's Odyssey winner's choice of
 Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters  or The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass.
*From Carolina's blog there will be 5 different winners:
  #1 A 1st page critique from agent Vickie Motter of the Andrea Hurst Literary Agency
  #2 A Kindle (must follow all blogs in the giveaway to qualify)
  #3 Signed copy of Escaping into the Open: the Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg
  #4 Signed Hardback of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
  #5 Signed Hardback of Passing Strange by Daniel Waters
*From J. Koyanagi (You will need to subscribe or follow her RSS feed)
  One winner will win: WRITING DOWN THE BONES, by Natalie Goldberg or HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman or GIVE 'EM WHAT THEY WANT: THE RIGHT WAY TO PITCH YOUR NOVEL TO EDITORS AND AGENTS, by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook
*From Simon Larter One winner will win all three:
Stephen King's ON WRITING, Ray Bradbury's ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, and Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD
*From LK Gardner-Griffie (In lieu of a follow, you will need to LIKE her Fan page) TBA
ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins, DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins
Winner 1: A signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE Winner 2: A signed copy of RAISED BY WOLVES Winner 3: WRITE GREAT FICTION: PLOT & STRUCTURE
*From Lola Sharp SECRET
*From Elizabeth Davis A $25 Amazon gift card
*From Tracey Neithercott A Hardcover of Across the Universe
*From Kristen Yard
A Signed copy of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers
*From Christine Fonseca (You will need to subscribe to her blog):
 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Guide Or A partial Critique
*From Jonathon Arntson A $15 Barnes and Noble gift card

The rules: You must be a follower to enter (new and old followers are welcome!) and leave a comment on the post you wish to enter to win. See each blog for more information on prizes and rules. The contests close on April 1st and winners will be announced by April 4th. Hurry, click on each of the links and leave a comment! Best of luck!

Friday, March 11, 2011


"What? You don't like my novel?"
If you’re an author hoping to get published, you have an antagonist hiding in cyberspace. He’s waiting until your hopes are high, your heart is joyous, and just when you think that nothing can stop you, he attacks. He may delay this attack until you nails are nubs, and nerves are shot. He knocks on your door. “You have mail.” The agent you submitted your life to, has responded. “We’re sorry, your novel is not for us.”

You may have written the most fabulous novel. Edited it to perfection. Your readers love it. You’ve worked on it for years. But that antagonist, Rejection, is waiting to battle your will, beat you down and make you feel worthless.

Crushing? Of course. All your friends tell you that this wasn’t the right agent and not a good match. That your book is brilliant. You rock. We try to believe them. But the truth is, rejection hurts. All rejection hurts. When someone doesn’t like our work, we take it personal. Why? Because it is.

But like all good stories, how often does the antagonist win? Never in my book. Besides, everything good in my life has always started with a challenge, or someone telling me no. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few that doors open and the sky parts when you walk by. But for the most of us, that’s not the case. Not to mention the fact the industry is changing more quickly than I can write this sentence—Getting published today is hard.

Suggestion... battle your antagonist by focusing on your work. If you’re lucky enough for an agent to tell you why they weren’t interested, listen to them. Decide if you think they were right. Think about your work in a different light. Put it on the shelf for a few months. But don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

The only way you will fail is if you quit. I’m serious. Don’t quit. I’ve now had three rejections on my recent submissions. I’ve been thinking a lot about their comments. You know, there may be some truth and areas I can work on. I’m looking forward to carving a few more lines of character into my masterpiece. We can’t get better if we don’t know the truth. But remember, one person’s truth is not necessarily yours.

How do you deal with rejection?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How To Finish Your Novel

As I approach the end of my first novel this year I'm getting a lot of questions on how I do it so I thought I'd share my secrets with you. Many of you already know I carry a notebook everywhere I go and write everything long hand first, then I enter it later in my computer. This gives me the freedom to be able to write anywhere, any time. I write on the way to work (don't worry, I car pool), I write on my breaks at work, and whenever I find a free moment at home. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve though.

First I set a big goal such as, finish this book in six months. Your goal doesn't have to have such a tight timeline but it should have a time that you plan to have the novel completed. After that I take a guess at how long I think my novel is going to be. Based on that I figure out how many pages I have to write a day to reach my goal in time. Those pages become my secondary goal. It's is usually three pages a day. Again, your goal doesn't have to be nearly that much. The important thing is that you have a goal.

There is a key to reaching your writing goals, something you must do otherwise you risk never reaching them. This won't be easy for many of you because it isn't within a writer's nature. Are you ready to commit to it? Okay, here it is: allow yourself to write a rough draft. If you try to perfect your novel every step of the way it will take years to write and the process with frustrate you nearly to death. Get that first draft done from start to finish without a single edit. I give you permission. Once you're finished with it you can go back and put it through the ringer, but you must write it first.

Join us this Thursday at 6:00pm PT on the #WritersRoad chat on Twitter to discuss the topic farther and to get that much needed support for finishing your novel!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Pitching to Agents at Conferences

Pitching your book to agents at conferences is a great opportunity, and anyone who's done it knows how exciting/nerve wracking it can be.  Talk about high stakes!  Will the agent request pages?  Will she at least request a query letter?  Or maybe, the full manuscript?

It helps tremendously if you have two things going for you:

First, an awareness that agents are just people, too, and that they really do want to hear what you have to say. Most will tell you that they know writers are usually nervous when they pitch, and that's all right; they can hear what they need to through your nerves.  So go for it.

Second, a clear, concise understanding of what should be in the pitch.

Start by introducing yourself, stating the title, genre and word length of your book, and whether it's complete (it should be complete before you pitch to an agent, and it's important that you tell them it is).

Then there are two more pieces, one short and one a little longer.

The short one is one sentence that describes the heart of your story. This is also known as the log line. To figure out your log line, ask yourself what it is that truly drives the story.  What is it the characters are compelled to do and why? If this doesn't come to you succinctly, think in terms of what the private stakes are for the character (life, liberty, etc.), and what the public stakes are—what thing bigger than, or outside, the character created the possibility of this situation.

Here's the log line that James Scott Bell gives in his book, The Art of War for Writers, for THE FUGITIVE:  A respected surgeon, wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, must evade capture by a team of U.S. Marshals until he finds the real killer.  

For the longer piece of your pitch, think of what you would write after the log line for your back cover copy.  You want to include:

a) what the question is that has to be answered (that comes from the plot)/what causes the protagonist's quest.  Use your protagonist's name in this part of the pitch.

b) what it is the protagonist faces in order to defend/support/challenge how the question is being answered

c) what defining action takes place that allows a resolution and a major revelation

Try to do this second part in five-to-seven sentences, and keep the pitch under two minutes.  You will want to have time after you finish for the agent to ask questions and to talk a little. Be ready to ask the agent a couple of questions, too, about her agency and how she likes to work with clients.  If you're able to show an agent that you know something about her by asking your questions, and that you have an idea of how you like to work, beyond the writing itself, that can be impressive.

There's a blog post up today from the terrific agent, Jessica Faust at BookEnds, that covers her guidelines for the pitch. It's an excellent read.

Any pitching stories or wisdoms you have to share?  We can all learn from each other.


Friday, March 4, 2011

You Can Write a Super Synopsis

Last year I submitted my novel, Flight For Control, to the PNWA's writers contest and received excellent feedback. What surprised me most was the feedback on my synopsis.

Full disclosure here. While all points were graded ten out of ten possible on the submission, I received under three points from all three readers on the synopsis. One reader said, "Your writing is strong. The story intriguing. If you can figure out how to write a synopsis you might have something."

What had I done? I tried to put the entire story into my synopsis. Wrong. I didn't try to do that, I couldn't help it! I mean there are so many incredible things that needed to be told. All my characters needed to be introduced. How they interacted with each other. The plot twists. The setting. The wins and losses of my protagonist. Not.

The almighty synopsis is no longer my nemesis. Over the last year I've learned the synopsis is more than an outline for the book. This is our marketing tool. We don't need all the characters. We don't want too much detail, just enough to intrigue the reader so they want to read the book. I recently learned how to do this by accident.

I'm now writing my second novel and wrote an outline. Then I wrote the synopsis. Yes, I wrote the synopsis before the novel. This prevented me inserting superfluous facts because they haven't been developed yet. I was able to write the synopsis with ease, and craft it out of pure inspiration of what the story will be. It was easy! Try it.

Do you have any tips for a synopsis? We would love your comments. Through my search, via my best friend Google, I found a great website for helping with the synopsis with many examples. I'm not saying they are good examples because I haven't read them all. But inspiration comes in many forms. Check it out by clicking HERE. Something may help. Life is all about learning.

Have a productive writing day and remember to enjoy the journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Clearing Contest

Today is a two part post that includes a contest to give away The Clearing by Anne Riley! I'm really excited to be giving away a copy of this book because I've been with Anne through her journey to publication for a while now. She is an amazing, dedicated lady who just won't give up and she inspires me every day. Here is a bit about The Clearing:

Natalie Watson doesn’t believe the reports about the way her parents died. In fact, she’s not sure she believes in much of anything these days. But after moving from her home in Georgia to her aunt’s boarding school in Maine, solving the mystery of her parents’ deaths is just one of several things on her mind. When she’s not fending off attacks from the popular kids or taking refuge in the pages of a novel, she ponders the rumors circulating about a certain boy in her math class… a boy with fiery red hair who never speaks to anyone.

Despite suspicions that he may have murdered his sister a year earlier, Natalie finds it impossible to stay away from Liam Abernathy – especially when he confesses to knowing something about her parents. Soon she’s following him into the forest, where things happen she doesn’t understand… things that shouldn’t be possible….

Aren't you dying to get your hands on this?! Here's what you need to do: Be a follower of the Critique Sisters Corner and leave a comment letting us know you'd like to win a copy. Using we will do a drawing on March 30th and the winner will be announced on March 31st. Best of luck everyone! To learn more about Anne you can click on her name and if you just can't wait to order The Clearing you can click on the title.

Balancing Setting & Action

A beautiful, descriptive paragraph draws me right into a book, but it isn't what keeps me reading. If a book is filled with paragraph after paragraph of setting description then I'll eventually get bored. There has to be action or tension of some kind that keeps me reading. Don't get me wrong, I love it when an author gives such a vivid description that I feel like I'm there, but even that can be over done. As writers we have to find the happy balance between action and describing the setting.

How much is too much? Any time you describe the setting the reader shouldn't feel like the action or tension has stopped. Instead, the setting should add to it and help propel the story. If your protagonist is feeling blue it might help to have it raining, or make the room they're in dark and dismal, if they're mad you could have a storm approaching or make the room chaotic and messy. Your character's environment will reflect them in some way because what they're feeling and going through will affect the way they see it. Contrast can also work for you if you do it right and have the character responding to how the environment is clashing with them.

Have fun with it, try a few writing prompts and try out setting and mood. Just remember, don't stop the flow of tension or action. The story must go on! As with everything in your book, if part of your setting description doesn't move the story forward or add to it in a necessary way, it isn't needed. Join us this Thursday, 6pm PT on Twitter for the #WritersRoad chat where we'll discuss this in depth.