Questions To Ask A Perspective Agent

choose-book-confused-student-girl-choosing-two-books-red-blue-left-right-which-one-to-read-difficult-decision-119252584I have to be honest, I just want an agent to say yes, I will represent you. I’ve had my fill of rejections, but I know, just like anything else in life, you need to do your homework.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of a potential agent. Knowing the agent’s expectations in advance of agreeing to work together will help you avoid a nasty breakup.

Find someone who believes in your work, who loves your voice, and whose vision for your future matches your own.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does the agent require a signed agent-author agreement? If so, ask for a copy in advance and review it carefully. Also, ask for a copy of the agency clause they will place in the publishing contract.
  2. How does the agent prefer to keep authors informed of submissions?
  3. What happens in the event of the agent’s death? Verify that the agent has provisions in place to protect your rights.
  4. How many authors do the agent and agency represent?
  5. Does the agent offer editorial feedback? Some authors like for the agent to critique their work.
  6. Does the agent offer career planning?
  7.  Does the agent handle sub-rights, ancillary rights, and/or movie rights?
  8. What novels have the agent or agency sold in the past year?
  9. What is the agents normal turnaround time for responding to e-mails and phone calls?
  10. How can the agent-author contract be severed?

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions with the exception of question 8. The purpose of asking questions is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision and to clarify expectations for yourself and your agent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Questions To Ask A Perspective Agent

Show Don’t Tell

anton-chekhov-moon-is-shining-quote-630x473.pngI can’t count how many times I’ve heard the phrase-show don’t tell. Everybody knows you’re supposed to show and not tell. You want the reader to experience the scene as if they are one of the characters walking through the story besides the hero/heroine.

If you’re like me, you know what you’re supposed to do, but you don’t really understand what to do to make it happen. How do I show and not tell? It’s a lot harder than it seems. Once you start writing that novel, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

There are 5 tools for showing:

  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Interior dialogue
  • Interior emotion
  • Description-Sensory

If you’re doing anything that’s not one of these 5 things, you’re not showing.

Why is it so important to show versus tell? Showing provides your reader with a powerful emotional experience.

It doesn’t matter how great you do everything else in that novel if you’re missing that emotional experience, you lose. If everything you did is bad, but you have a great emotional experience, you may still win.

It all comes down to the takeaway. Every great novelist will tell you, you have to give your reader that powerful emotional experience or they won’t be coming back.

-Something to think about 🙂

-Jan R

Show Don’t Tell

Word Echos!

imagesB1G33MWEWord Echo? I’m sure you have an idea of what it is, even if you haven’t heard the term before. It’s the use of the same word in close proximity or in the same sentence.

It’s considered ugly and inelegant. Don’t do it! The good news is, it’s probably one of the easiest mistakes to correct.

Just delete one of the repeated words if you can do so without changing the meaning of the sentence. If that doesn’t work, you’ll simply have to replace the duplicate with a new one.

That can be a little tricky. You have permission to pull out the thesaurus, just don’t get carried away, and consider the word you’re using as a replacement.

Example:

Angrily– bitterly, impetuously, tempestuously, threateningly, fiercely, furiously, violently, infuriatingly, tigerishly (I didn’t make this one up)……

Many of the words listed are the same but different. They range from a slight variation in meaning to utterly ridiculous.

Footnote: It’s okay to repeat if you’re writing poems, songs, or emphasizing a point. After I finished this blog, I thought about Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech. His repeats were intentional and poetic.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Word Echos!

Sentences – The Long And Short Of It -Revisited

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiMAAAAJDg5M2Q4NGJiLTBhMTQtNDA5Ni1hNGVmLTM2YWRiZjczMDhjNQHave you ever read a sentence and thought that is way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again to try and figure out what’s going on.

Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.

There’s not a set rule for short or long. The sentence length you choose depends a lot on what you are trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, lost me a long time ago sentences, and short, what just happened sentences. It’s up to you to decide when to use them, given the context of your writing.

What do short sentences do?

  • Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
  • Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past Central Park in Manhattan with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
  • Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast-food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
  • To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.

What do long sentences do?

  • Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
  • Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
  • Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.

Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19th-century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has its place. When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.

Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂

-Jan R

Sentences – The Long And Short Of It -Revisited

Commas, Commas, And More Commas!

Lets-eat-grandpaCommas are an albatross around my neck. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but they are frequently my downfall in writing prose. Unfortunately, they are the most common punctuation mark within sentences, so you had better learn their proper use.

What’s the purpose of commas?

  1. Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction.                                     Example: The house was built, but it had no tenants.                                                                             The meal was cooked, and the kitchen was cleaned.

2.  Set off most introductory elements.                                                                                              Example: Unfortunately, the rest of the house was a mess.                                                                           Of course, I would love to go.

3.  Set off nonessential elements (phrases that could be removed from the sentence              and not affect its meaning)                                                                                                                  Example: The injury, sustained from the fall, needed to be taken care of. The words          set apart by the commas are informative but not necessary to convey the idea.

4.  Separate item in a series/list.                                                                                                           Example: She had eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.

5.  Separate coordinate adjectives.                                                                                                       Example:  She was an independent, hardworking woman.                                                                              The warm, cozy comforter was all I needed.

6.  Separate quotations and signal phrases( she said, he wrote, said Elsie).                          Example: “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon.                                                                                    Lisa said, “Do not walk on the grass.”                                                                            There are some exceptions to this rule.                                                                                        Example: “That part of my life was over,” she wrote. “His words had sealed it shut.”                              “Claude!” Jamie called.                                                                                                                          James Baldwin insists that “one must never, in one’s life, accept…injustices                            as commonplace.” (It’s integrated into the sentence so a comma isn’t                                        necessary.)

7. Separate parts of dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers.                                 Example:  July 4, 1776, is independence day.  December 1941(doesn’t need a comma)                              Raleigh, North Carolina, is the location of NC State University.                             Do not use a comma between a state name and a zip code.

8. Use the comma to separate long numbers in groups of three. With numbers of 4          digits, the comma is optional.                                                                                                          Example: 1,000,000                                                                                                                                                    1000

Okay, now you know what I know. This exercise was as much for me as it was for you.       Hopefully, I can retain the information and use it during my next revision 🙂

Hope it helped.

-Jan R

Commas, Commas, And More Commas!

Are You An Overwriter?

eb54a872416ead7c0e1ca63e01d30416--writing-prompts-writing-tipsOverwriting is a result of our own effort to figure out what’s happening in any given scene. Only after we have discovered that core truth can we know what truly belongs and what doesn’t, based on a clearer knowledge of what we’re trying to say and what the scene requires. – David Corbett

So why do we overwrite? Insecurity. Annie Dillard describes one type of insecurity as “the old one-two.” You write your thoughts, feel like you have to explain yourself and repeat what you just said using different words. Remember you want to say it once, say it well, and move on.

Another reason for overwriting is the anxiety of feeling you didn’t give your reader a  clear, concise picture of what’s going on. The reader needs to know, right? Give your reader some credit. Maybe they already know what’s going on based on everything they’ve read so far, or maybe they don’t need to know everything. Leave a little mystery and give yourself fodder for upcoming chapters.

The good news is overwriting is the best problem to have. You just have to find that sweet spot where you give your readers just enough to allow their imagination to take control.

Don’t bog your reader down with needless words. Keep them engaged and moving forward with the thrill of finding out what lies just around the corner.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Are You An Overwriter?

Maybe It’s Not You!

Maybe-its.pngYou may have a great elevator speech/pitch for an editor, but that doesn’t mean it will be accepted. Don’t take it personal. There are many reasons your work is rejected,
and they have nothing to do with your writing or how it’s presented. Take heart and don’t give up.

Common reasons for rejection

  1.  The editor has too much on their plate. They are only human just like the rest of us. They may really like your work but just not have the time to pursue it. They could request that you wait until they have the time to give your work their full attention, but that wouldn’t be fair to you. In reality, they would be asking you to put everything on hold and inhibit you from pitching to another editor.
  2.  The piece isn’t a good fit for that particular editor. Know what they are looking for.
  3.  The Editor has insider info. In the past editors could post what they wanted, but these days, authors do surveys, interviews, and talk to focus groups. In order for a publication to be successful, the editor has to provide what their reader is looking for.
  4.  The concept lacks originality. You can do a simple google search to find out how original your great idea really is.
  5.  The editor may be afraid to gamble on your skills, especially if you’re new. Have that great pitch, but also have that article or piece of work complete so the editor knows you’re serious and can complete what you have started.

This list was provided by an editor at Writer’s Digest. Her focus was on magazine/publication articles, however, these reasons for rejection also apply to novels.

I would take a good look at that elevator speech to make sure I’m presenting my work in the best light. If the speech/pitch is sound, maybe it’s not your work. Consider moving on to the next editor on your list.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Maybe-its.png

Maybe It’s Not You!