Friday, September 30, 2016

Queries, Rejections and the Overflowing Inbox

Back with a new episode! Okay, USUALLY, this series will only update every Wedensday as I plan to start up Lessons from Anime again. However, this time, since I only gave you an intro on Wedensday, I'mma give you actual content. Away we go!

Okay so…agents get a lot of queries every day. A lot. And if you consider the fact that reading queries is basically something they do in their free time, they don’t have a lot of time to comb through the slush every day. In the case of one of my internships, it was my job as the intern to comb through the slush and look for queries that fit the agents taste.

When I came to the office there were about six hundred queries in the inbox with more coming in every day. That's A LOT.

You just don’t have time to carefully read all of those queries so you have to find ways to get through them quickly.

Its easy to throw away stuff that doesn’t follow the query guidelines, but here are some other reasons that I tossed a query into the no folder soon after I started reading.

1.       Lots of errors
Really, if you want your work to look good, edit it ten or twenty times before pressing the send button. A lot of errors quickly tells an agent that you have some basic developing to do and that you’re not great at self-editing. Put your best foot forward.

2.       Cliché premise

Some stories, we’ve heard before, and there are plenty of queries that sound as dull as they come. Nothing original sticks out about. It sounds like a conglomeration of other plot lines that have been done before. Now, of course there aren’t many original ideas out there, but most works do have a stand out element. Find what stands out about your work and feature that in your query

3.       Played out genre

The agent basically told me to put anything dystopian and paranormal romance in the ‘no’ folder unless it was REALLY good. When you’re writing in a genre that’s been played out, it has to be something truly special, so sometimes you’re fighting an uphill battle. That’s not to say that some agents won’t still be on the lookout for your genre, but if an agent says that they’re tired of something…they probably aren’t the right one for you.

4.       Similar to something already on their list

A lot of times it’s good to submit to an agent who reps titles comparable to your work. But if they’re too comparable, then the agent isn’t going to take it on. Simply put, they’re already working on something similar so unless yours blows their socks off, they’ll let it go

5.       Just not right

More than once, I forwarded a submission that I thought was original and really knocked my socks off. But sometimes that would still get rejected because it wasn’t right. A picture book that was a little too long for instance, or just something that didn’t peak the agents interest. It happens, to be sure. And you want someone who is fully passionate about your book, so its for the best.

6.       No Voice

Sometimes a book lacks a certain feel. A certain life. This life is usually imbued by voice and there are plenty of submissions that don’t have that. Often they come from more inexperienced writers who haven’t found their voice yet. Its one of those things that come with practice.

7.       Just…average

I read plenty of submissions that were well written with nothing technically wrong with them but none of them grabbed me. An agent wants to be pulled off of their chair (figuratively. I don't recommend actually pulling an agent off their chair) and into the story. When something is just ‘good’ then it goes in the no folder.

8.       I’ve seen something similar that day that was better

Sometimes a submission raises my standards for the day. Then I might stumble across a similar submission that isn’t as good. Because of the first, brilliant submission, the other submission might pale in comparison.

As you can see, a lot of this stuff is situational. It depends on the day and the other things the agent sees. Agents are biased people. They have good and bad days. Their tastes and interests shift. That’s what makes the trenches a difficult place to navigate.

The point is: sometimes rejection isn’t your fault. Don’t go running off to change your query after a few rejections. But several rejections may tell you that your query isn’t standing out.

No matter what, put your best foot forward and do whatever you can to help your novel stand out. But always follow the query guidelines ;) 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Notes from New York: Introduction

Hello friends! The Heroes and Heroism series is over, but now we have a whole new series to look at, this one more editing focused!

I meant to start this series earlier because, you know, it would be fresher on the mind. But, while I had a very productive writing life over the Summer…not so much with the blogging. Kind of fell off the wagon with that one. But let’s jump back in shall we?

Image result for Determined gif

One of the reasons I fell off the wagon with blogging in the first place was because during the spring semester of last year I was in New York City! The Big Apple, City that Never Sleeps, etc. The program, through my school, focused on viewing art, music, theater, dance and film all throughout the city, as well as completing twenty hours of internships a week in order to gain work experience in our chosen fields.

Image result for New York city gif

So, of course, I decided to pick up two internships at Literary Agencies: Defiore and Co, and McIntosh and Otis. As a writer, the publishing process is often an ‘other side’ that we never entirely understand. That’s why we have our lovely agents to guide us along and help us through the trickier parts. It was bizarre to really be on the other side of the trenches where I queried for so long, and it definitely gave me some insight into the process.

While I interned at these two places I:

Read the slush pile

Read partial and full requests and wrote readers reports

Also read client manuscripts and offered feedback

Compared contracts

And did some fun office work like mailing, copying and filing (fortunately that was a small part of my internships)

I also got to observe real literary agents as well as their assistance in their natural habitat, which involves a lot of emails and editing and calls and over all hard work.

And I think that’s the most important thing: Literary Agents work really hard. They are constantly juggling projects and clients in addition to reading the slushpile. But there are only so many hours in the day, so they only have the time for stuff that wows them.

So how do you wow them? How do you really stick out in that slushpile. And what kind of pitfalls should you avoid. I hope that I’ve gained a little insight into that and in this series, I hope to cover some editing tips for you as you’re fighting through the trenches.

Until next time, happy writing!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hero Spotlight: Chihiro and Coraline

Today lets look at two of my favorite child characters. Both of these girls abscond to other worlds for fantastical adventures. But both of their adventures have a dark twist to them and they must fight to conquer their fears in order to get out alive (a pretty apt metaphor for entering adulthood, when you think about it).

In Spirited Away, a young girl named Chihiro finds herself in the spirit world with her parents turned into pigs. In order to avoid becoming food for the spirits herself, she must get a job at the bath house, working for the witch Yubaba. Before being placed in this situation, Chihiro is a normal ten year old, pretty selfish and lazy but also wholly relatable. And over the course of the movie we get to see her growing stronger and putting her wits to overcome many different challenges.

Chihiro must work for the first time in her life, solve tough issues and even travel on her own through the spirit world to help a friend in need. We see her grow from a kid who doesn’t know how to fend for herself to a confident young woman, who can take responsibility and fight for her loved ones. Of course she must go back to the real world, but she takes everything she has learned with her. I adore this movie so much. Its one of my favorites and Chihiro is one of the best examples of a child character out there.

On another end, we have Coraline, whose story is less obviously about growing up and a few shades darker than the previous story. Most people know this tale. Its about a dissatisfied child named Coraline crawling through a door into another house where all of her dreams come true. However her Other Mother might not be so benevolent as she seems.

In fact she is pretty terrifying

Coraline is a very realistic child, smart and adventurous, but also selfish and attention seeking. She likes the focus of life to be on her and in her dream world, she gets just that. However, she must fight to keep her soul from the Other Mother’s clutches (You know. For kids!) as well as save the souls of other children who have been trapped before. Growing up, for Coraline, is accepting that life can’t be exactly as she wants it and taking responsibility for her mistakes. In the end, she must save her parents and others from the Other Mother and ignore the temptation of a so called ‘perfect life’. Life isn't perfect, and everyone must accept that some point. In many ways, Coraline learns the shades of grey of adulthood in this, also learning to treasure her real parents, ordinary life, and the change of moving to a new town, even if there are still challenges.

Children vs. growing up can be as vague and symbolic as Coraline or specific as Peter Pan. But they all capture the need of a child to eventually step into their own shoes and take control of their life for the first time. I love both of these stories for that reason.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Heroes and Heroism: The Child vs. Growing Up

To close out our series (I know right? I'm actually finishing it) I want to take a look at a more… unique hero vs obstacle conflict and one that is very close to my heart. That being the child vs. growing up. The child is a hero that can fall under any of the characters I have already discussed, as it is only an age group (Which in this case I would define as less than twelve). But the important thing about a young hero is that they aim to connect with a younger audience. And this fact alone makes them one of the most important heroes out there. Because kids don’t just want to look up to adults that do heroic things. They also want to be part of the story.

While they might face any of the obstacles already discussed, from an intellectual rival to a super villain to the weight of expectations, one of the primary blockades many of them must face is the concept of ‘growing up’.

The most obvious example of this is Peter Pan. In all iterations of this story, children escape to Neverland with Peter Pan where they never have to grow up. It’s a dreamlike life, full of danger, but also fun. Just what all kids want. But the problem with Neverland is that you can’t stay forever without missing out on a lot or having some serious developmental issues. You can’t just refuse to grow up without facing the consequences. And so, inevitably, heroes like Wendy Darling end up returning to the real world, though this time having accepted growing up.

Growing up becomes a literal obstacle in the Gone series when people over the age of 14 start disappearing. Here, the oldest children must mature very quickly and take on roles of leadership and responsibility that they never would have before. This is a darker take on the child vs growing up trope as many of these children face disastrous consequences. It’s a pretty twisted series. But it shows the opposite of Peter Pan’s ‘dangers of not growing up’ with ‘the dangers of growing up to fast’. What we get from both of these tales is that this whole 'aging' thing is a tricky business.

These are stories that all kids can relate too, but I especially had an intense personal connection with these narratives. As a kid I was desperately afraid of growing up, not even for fear of adult responsibilities but for fear that I would lose my imagination if I did. In many ways, adults seemed so much more cynical, realistic and down to earth and I feared that once I became an adult I would lose all of my childlike sensibilities. I thought there was a real difference between children and adults and that when you flipped a switch you became one. 

Image result for Kino's journey gif

There’s an episode of Kino’s Journey in which children get a procedure when they reach a certain age that makes them content with dull, meaningless lives. And that is actually what I thought would happen. My nightmare personified.

Of course now, looking back on it, I know that’s not true. But its important for children to have models, while they’re growing up, to show them that the process isn’t so bad. We may change as we age, but we also gain experience, and often times become stronger. We always stay the same essential person at our core.

It’s these characters and stories that help children appreciate both childhood and growing up for all of their merits.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hero Spotlight: Scar and Victor

Let's get this series back on track shall we?

So last time...way, WAY last time...we talked about the anti hero vs. the line between good and bad. You can give yourself a refresher here.

But today let’s take a look at two very interesting anti-hero examples: Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist and Victor from V.E. Schwab’s Vicious.

First, Scar. Scar starts out as an antagonist to our main heroes, the Elric Brothers, as he has set out to destroy all State Alchemists with his alchemy enhanced arms. However the motive of his revenge quickly becomes clear and its hard not to sympathize with him, considering that his people were destroyed by the military in a senseless genocide. 

Despite his initial villain role, Scar is often more on the hero side than he is on the villain side in both series, often having a soft spot for children and other down trodden folk.

Eventually, his bizarre alchemy becomes a cornerstone to taking down the main villain, and he puts aside his revenge to help the rest of the heroes destroy the real evil. He has a different impact in both series, but he plays an important role in each.

Scar starts out as a real threat of course, working outside the laws in every way since he’s… murdering people. But he also struggles with his own moral code, knowing that by using alchemy to destroy state alchemists, he has turned his back on the religion of his people. It leaves him to even leave behind his real name of which he doesn’t think he is worthy. It’s a lot of grade A internal and external stuff that makes Scar one of the most interesting characters in both series.

Then there is Victor, from Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Victor and his roommate Eli both gain supernatural abilities after near death experiences. But after something goes horribly wrong, they split ways in a bad way. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison to stop his crazy old roommate from killing everyone with supernatural abilities. However, while Victor is the less evil of the two, he is by no means a typical hero. Like Eli he is an arrogant genius, often time selfish, and he’s less motivated by the greater good in this book so much as settling the score with Eli. He’s willing to do plenty of non-heroic things to ultimately take Eli down.

However, despite this, Victor is still comparably better, and he does form positive relationships with some of his other super powered companions. This is still his story and his journey, and Eli is absolutely the villain in question. But Victor is just a twist on the typical super hero. He’s no knight in shining armor, but he still knows what needs to be done, making him a thoroughly interesting main character to follow.

That’s all from the spotlight this week! See you next time for our last week of the Heroes and Heroism Series. Until then, happy writing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Hey there fellow writers and readers. Been awhile hasn't it?

Alright yeah...been a long while. To be honest ever since I started my semester in New York I've been completely off the wagon. Or maybe my lackadaisical blog updating started with Junior year? Whatever the case, its been quite the year, hasn't it? A little over a year ago, Hour of Mischief was officially published. My debut novel! Pretty crazy huh?

But more crazy than that was what I did on the anniversary: finally signed my three book contracts for the rest of the series with Curiosity Quills Press. That's right. The rest of the Clockwork Gods series is officially HAPPENING!

Book two is entited SEASON OF WIND and follows Janet and her crew on their continued quest to rescue their friend Sylvia--at least until Itazura gets himself into trouble and Janet is thrown back into godly politics. Its a book that takes the characters to new parts of the world, show cases more characters, divine and mortal alike, and of course has the same vaguely sarcastic sense of humor than infects all of my books.

I can't give a summary for the other two books of course. That might give a few spoilers. But I'm super excited to work on the series with my publisher and get them into print.

And as I do all that, I am going endeavor to regularly update my blog again (twice weekly, hopefully). Starting with completing the heroes series which has taken me a literal eternity to get through. Then I plan to start a series on what I learned from interning at two literary agencies New York.

It should be a fun and exciting school year (my last school year in fact) and I'm looking forward to it. As always, happy writing!