Stephen King is pretty freakin cool…


stephen king book

So I recently read Stephen King’s memoir on writing (Stephen King/On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft). He has always been an author that’s intrigued me and after reading this book he does even more.

He’s an author of more than 50 books and all of them worldwide bestsellers. Not many authors can claim that. I thought that I would share a few things he said that spoke to me in his memoir. May I strongly suggest also, whether you’re a writer or just a fan to go pick this book up or order it online. It’s a must have.

From the King himself:

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

Although you’re the creator of your characters, they can actually teach you some unexpected things along the way. According to Stephen, Carrie White, his main character in the book, Carrie, was the one character that taught him things no other did.

“The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a shitting position.”  

“-…but I think you will find that, if you continue to write fiction, every character you create is partly you.”

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own.”

Everything matters. Even where you place your writing desk.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

You have the honor of writing a book, which is what Mr. King calls, “uniquely portable magic.” However, that comes with a seriousness of the responsibility it holds.

“Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again; you must not come lightly to a blank page.” 

“-it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.”

Words, Tense, Averbs…

“Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.”

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of the full meaning.”

“You should avoid passive tense.”

“The adverb is not your friend.”

Whether you’re a first time author or you’ve written a million books, there is still a small steady fear that whatever your writing is crap and you had no business being an author in the first place. That’s okay. Just don’t let it consume you the writing will be bad if it even gets written at all.

“I’m convinced that fear is the root of most bad writing.”

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad”, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

One of your must-have tools…Reading. You MUST read…without ceasing. Second, write. Anything…everything…just write.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

“We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience the different styles.”

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.”

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like that phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor”

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.”

Keep it fresh in your mind. Yes, some of us have other jobs, families, or responsibilities, but you MUST forge through with your writing and keep it going.

“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. Writing is at its best–always, always, always–when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle.”

“For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction.”

“I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader.”

Description is the essence for your reader. That skill does not come overnight to a writer.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot.”

“Description begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page.”

“If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.”

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.”

“Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story.”


“As with all other aspects of fiction, the key to writing good dialogue is honesty. And if you are honest about the words coming out of your character’s mouths, you’ll find that you’ve let yourself in for a fair amount of criticism.”

“You must tell the truth if your dialogue is to have the resonance and realism that Hart’s War, good story though it is, so sadly lacks–and that holds true all the way down to what folks say when they hit their thumb with a hammer. If you substitute “Oh sugar!” for “Oh shit!” because you’re thinking about the Legion of Decency, you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader–your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story.”

“Everything I’ve said about dialogue applies to building characters in fiction. The job boils down to two things: paying attention to how real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see.”

1st drafts…2nd drafts…and self doubt…

“I don’t believe a story or novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes to my mind, only looking back to check the names of characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”

For all writers, the act of writing is something extraordinary, a feat that cannot be put into exact words, a window that opens to endless possibilities if they can imagine it…

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink up and be filled.”









Do you suffer from F.A.P. ???

Fear and Procrastination. Two nasty little words that obliterate a writer’s craft before it’s completed.

I’ve written blogs before on inspiration and keeping that perseverance going. But what happens when you just don’t think you have it in you to write one more page, write one more word? Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean the words come easy. It’s not like our pens become magic wands, making all our dreams come true in five seconds. So, what if your “small break” ends up being two months of pure nothingness?

You start having that fear creep inside you. That voice that says, “you’ll never get there. You were so close, all that work, and now its just collecting dust, like all your other projects you never finished. Good job, buddy. Don’t quit your day job.”

And there it starts. After fear catches you, then procrastination keeps you. He’s the little thief in the night that watches your every movement until…BAM…he’s in your house while you’re asleep, grabbing all your precious things.

Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”  ~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

How does a writer move on from that? At times, procrastination can almost be debilitating. It’s similar to how depression is described in some people, the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. Some of the best pieces of work have never left a writer’s mind because of that robber who steals our time and thoughts. We make excuses saying it’s our spouse, our full-time job, friends, or our kids that need our time more. “Life is just busy right now.” We say to ourselves. “I’m moving, changing jobs, my daughter has basketball practice, I’m getting married, I’m getting divorced, the holidays are coming up, etc.”


The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”  ~ Alan Dean Foster

Sometimes, it’s as simple as guilt from a family member. You know the person I’m talking about. The one that says your writing is just a “hobby” and really it should come behind everything else. Before we know it, days, weeks, months, maybe even years have gone by. We feel like we’ve missed our moment.

Other times, it’s the discouragement of comparing ourselves to other writers. “How did Suzy Smith write and edit her 100K word manuscript in six months? She’s going to be published in the Spring!” You gaze at the piles of crumpled paper that surround your desk. The red ink smudged all over your 40K word rough draft that you’ve been working on for nearly two years. “She even has a husband and three kids! She does carpool and works for an attorney! How is that even possible!? I might as well just hang in the towel. If I was meant to be a writer, I’d be where Suzy is at.”

I went through some of this, just recently. Thankfully, I had a fantastic editor who didn’t give up on me. Shout out Katelyn Stark! She showed me that I could do it. I could finish, and that yes, life happens, but not to let it take all the reasons from me that caused me to start writing in the first place. Life is always moving and changing around you. But all you have to do is take that one step. Plug in that USB to your laptop, punch those keys with your fingers, take that paper out of your desk and pick up your pen. You’ll find that when you start again, it’s like an old friend the you thought was gone, but in fact, never left.

This blog is probably the most important one so far that I’ve written. Mostly, because it comes from a very dark place that I’ve been in with my writing. I’ve feared so much of not being able to cut it, never getting published, seeing others around me write faster or better, believing that maybe all the signs I thought I had seen, were just a mistake. Maybe, I really wasn’t a writer. I just got caught up in the moment. Maybe it had been just a lie I had wanted so badly.

I’ve written about patience in the writing industry on my blog. Every part of it is true. Sometimes you must have it with agents, editors, publishers, but more often than you think, we need it for ourselves too. It’s amazing how we start out with this drunk euphoria when we begin a new project. The OOOH’s and AAAH’s of our family and friends. “I can’t believe your writing a book! That’s amazing! This story is fantastic!” How quickly in diminishes once we’ve been at it for a while. The cheerleading that we once were given fades away, and we realize that we need something else to carry us through. Emotions are fleeting. It sound cliché, but still true.

It’s amazing how each one of us have this internal time clock that makes us feel like we need to go faster in our writing. We focus so much on reaching that end mark of success, that we let the joy of writing slip past us. We forget, making it become just another check mark on our list. Just another task we finished for the day. Don’t let it be that!!

I never understood the importance of the question, “Why do you write?” At least not, until recently. What’s the significance of it? I’ll tell you. We need to know and understand what our driving force is to write. This is the key that will deepen ourselves and our writing into breaking free of that dark time of fear and procrastination. We must hold on tight to those reasons of why we write in the first place.

Alice Hoffman “I wrote to find beauty and purpose, to know that love is possible and lasting and real, to see day lilies and swimming pools, loyalty and devotion, even though my eyes were closed and all that surrounded me was a darkened room. I wrote because that was who I was at the core, and if I was too damaged to walk around the block, I was lucky all the same. Once I got to my desk, once I started writing, I still believed anything was possible.” (August 2000)

I write this blog now, in hopes that it will help other writers know that they aren’t alone. If you’re not a writer, you can’t understand the mental battle that takes place every day in a writer’s mind. The fears, the hunger, the courage, and determination that each of us must possess to finish our work.

What separates us from the people who only desire to be a writer isn’t our work or its completion, that it’s published, or that we were asked to be a speaker at a writing conference. Our choice and what we do with it is what divides us. The choice to give in to those dark lies, or the choice to believe that we were created to write something no one else could. No other can write the same words we put on the page. It’s our own distinct and unique fingerprint on the world, whether it get’s published, or simply, that you take a stack of papers from a desk drawer one day and give them to your grandkids to read and cherish. Either way, it’s yours, and yours alone.

I found this great blog article that talks about the daily routines of 12 famous authors.  It’s pretty amazing to see the differences in what each of them do, and how they find their own success in writing.

Last but not least, I leave you with a few quotes that I hope will encourage you in your writing journey.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Japanese Proverb

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ” Ray Bradbury


Happy Writing Ya’ll!








We all have our struggles, our little negative habits or tidbits that we desperately need to overcome in our writing. Whether it be terrible spelling, procrastination (ME, ME, ME!!!), confusion with POV, or…using the dreaded adverb too many times (ME, ME, ME!!).

If you were like me when I first started out, I thought adverbs were fabulous! They helped with description and some just sounded better with the big ‘LY” at the end. Yeah, no. It took a little bit of research on my part, to realize how much adverbs can water down your story and that, they are not, I repeat, NOT your friend.

As Stephen King put it, “I believe the road to Hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” And he’s right. One major reason an agent, editor, or publisher might put your manuscript down and move to another, is if your writing is drenched in adverbs. Here’s a little more on what Stephen King had to say about the adverb and on the simplicity of style.

“Employ a simple and straightforward style,” Mark Twain instructed in the 18th of his 18 famous literary admonitions. And what greater enemy of simplicity and straightforwardness than the adverb? Or so argues Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft (public library), one of 9 essential books to help you write better.

Though he may have used a handful of well-placed adverbs in his recent books, King embarks upon a forceful crusade against this malignant part of speech:

The adverb is not your friend.

Adverbs … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came beforeHe closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions . . . and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

King uses the admonition against adverbs as a springboard for a wider lens on good and bad writing, exploring the interplay of fear, timidity, and affectation:

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild — timidity is the word I’ve used here. If, however, one is working under deadline — a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample — that fear may be intense. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad,’ is fearful behavior.

It’s funny to me how Stephen King vocalizes that he believes that “fear” is at the root of most bad writing, when he is in fact, the author of some of the most terrifying stories of all times. His readers will probably agree with me, that in Mr. King’s case, he might have mastered “fear” to his advantage in his incredible writing.

Just remember, that some adverbs are okay when used moderately (or in moderation-see what I did there?). There will be times you catch yourself still adding an adverb where you don’t need it to be. But as you grow, just like trained singers, writers who’ve mastered technique can make magic with their voices, captivating their readers and making them turn pages. Such a writer’s voice can pulse with vitality, swing like music, create all kind of effects inside readers, compel them by sheer syntactical energy to keep turning the pages. It can only do these things, though, when the writer—like all those great writers from earlier eras—has studied, practiced, and mastered the repertoire of syntactical techniques available to those of us writing in English.

Including how to use—with precision, with care, with passion—the adverb.

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!!

Tips on Writing a Page Turner

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge advocate of Writer’s Digest. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just by reading the articles they have available on the internet. Not to mention, some of the books they have as well. If you haven’t checked them out yet, here’s the link!

Anyway, I found this great article by, Chuck Sambuchino, on 5 steps to write a page turner. There’s some really good tips in here. Enjoy!

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a quiet novel about old age, a historical romance, or a spy thriller. All writers face the same challenge: how do you keep a reader turning the pages of your novel? Imagine you’re rushing to work when you see a crowd of people, film cameras and lights. Some people say it’s Tom Cruise, others insist it’s a car commercial. Now you’re curious, and you stop to watch, even though you’re going to be late for work. As a writer, the most powerful emotion you can tap into is curiosity. You want the reader to stick around and see what happens in the end. How do you do this?

  1. Create a question in the reader’s mind right at the beginning.

This might seem like a cheap trick, but even a literary writer like Marquez uses it at the beginning of a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

(Can you re-query an agent after she’s rejected you in the past?)

What? The Colonel is facing a firing squad? How did he get there? Will he survive? And notice the secondary information: ice in this world is a novelty. Where is this place? How long ago is it?

In my own first novel, the beginning is tighter: “The Senator’s wife was late. Very late.” Hopefully the reader is intrigued: Who is this woman? Why is she late? Will she show up? And as the protagonist of my novel waits for the Senator’s wife, the reader waits, too, and gets sucked into the story.

  1. Little questions can lead to larger ones.

You do not have to start of your novel with something dramatic: an explosion, a body dropping, a woman standing on a window ledge. It takes time to build the world of a novel. If you introduce the main conflict of the novel too soon, the reader may not care: your characters are strangers, after all.

Instead, you could start with a quieter situation: your main character wakes up with a hangover, and doesn’t remember what happened the night before. A child searches the house for his missing candy bar. A cab driver picks up a beautiful woman who he thinks he recognizes.

These everyday situations will all pique the reader’s curiosity, and while they wait to find out what happens, you can develop complex, sympathetic characters and create a vivid setting. Then, when your main character goes on an epic journey, the child’s mother dies, and the cab driver is accused of murder, the reader will be fully invested in them, and read on to see what happens.

  1. Identify the main question at the heart of your book and don’t answer it till the end.

Ask yourself: What is keeping the reader intrigued? What is the most important question that remains unanswered till the end?

This central question of the book is often called the ‘narrative engine’. It is what keeps the reader turning pages, waiting to find out what happens. Once this question is answered, all the mystery drains away, so keep it alive till close to the end of the book.

Here’s the engine that powers my second novel, in one sentence: “When an Indian cab driver in New York City is accused of the murder of a Bollywood actress, he has ten days to find out who did it.”

Other classic narrative engines that keep entire novels chugging along: Do the lovers get together in the end? Do the travelers make it to their destination? What really happened in the past? Does he/she recover from a broken heart, a death, an illness?

  1. You can answer the main question right at the beginning and still create a page turner.

This completely contradicts what I’ve just said! Yet, the novel ‘Tinkers’, which won the Pulitzer Prize, gives everything away in the first sentence: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”

This might feel like a real spoiler. But, unlike a thriller or a mystery, this novel doesn’t hinge on knowing whether the man lives or dies. Instead, it explores how he came to be dying in his bed. If you are writing a quieter novel, it turns out how something happened can be just as compelling as what happened.

You could start a novel by revealing that the ship sinks, the marriage ends in divorce, the movie star ends up an alcoholic. Then the entire novel becomes a gradual unfolding of how it all happened. And the reader will stay with you for the ride.

(Learn how to protect yourself when considering a independent editor for your book.)

  1. Create a layering of questions.

While there is an overarching question that keeps the reader turning pages till the end of the book, 400 pages is a long time to wait for answer. If you, the writer, withhold all information throughout the book, the reader will get frustrated, and stop reading.

It is your job to introduce smaller questions throughout the book, and to answer them at different times. In my second novel, as my cab driver struggles to find the actress’s murderer, he takes up with a nightclub hostess; but what is she hiding from him? What exactly is happening at her nightclub? And do they end up together? While the main question remains shrouded in mystery, these smaller mysteries keep the book moving from chapter to chapter.

To conclude: please note that I started this post with a question, and you’ve read this far to find out the answers!

If you want to know even more, you can check out this website on Writer’s Digest as well –

Happy Writing Ya’ll!

Agent Interview on what they REALLY want…

1950s-chimp-in-overalls-sitting-in-chair-at-typewriter-with-pencil-and-steno-padI came across this article by Natalie R. Collins, and I thought it would be really good to share since we’ve been talking so much about literary agents lately. Let me know what you think!

“I wish I knew what agents are looking for,” a writing friend of mine said the other day. “If I could only read their minds, I’d be in!”

In today’s tough publishing climate, most big commercial presses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries from authors, and instead use agents to sort through the slush pile and bring them the best work around.

This means the most important contact a writer can or will have is with his/her agent. There are many things to consider when choosing an agent, including their sales record, affiliations, reputation, and client list. As you query the agents that meet your criteria, you will undoubtedly meet with much rejection.

Once you have an agent, don’t imagine you’re on easy street. Most agents will tell you to put aside that dream of instant success and royalties that pour in unchecked, and prepare to go to work. New writers must be willing to actively market their work, a job that is both time consuming and tedious. No agent wants

a client who thinks once the book is written, the job is done. Since I’m seriously short on psychic skills, I decided to do the next best thing and ask a few successful agents some questions. I asked four questions of three agents:

Jeff Kleinman of Graybill and English, LLC [JK], Liza Dawson [LD], and Felicia Eth [FE].

All three are successful non-fee chargers with proven track records and good reputations. One fact came out loud and clear: Writers are making the same mistakes over and over again. Here’s your opportunity to learn what an agent is looking for, directly from the source.

  1. What is the worst thing a writer can do in a query letter?

JK: Hmm, that’s a tough one. How about three things: ramble for more than a page and a half; sound desperate; and make grammatical, punctuation, or spelling mistakes.

LD: Here are two worst things. One, write the letter like it’s a promo piece for Publishers Clearinghouse, i.e. “Dear Ms. Dawson: I’d like to offer you the opportunity at a sure bestseller. I’ve heard you’re brilliant and so successful and that’s why I’m sending you and the other fifty agents on this e-mail submission this letter.” Two, beg me in hysterical language to pay attention because you’ve never written a letter to an agent and you’re really scared and you know that no one will ever listen to you.

FE: Bore me. If the letter does, probably the manuscript will too. Boast about it — tell me it’s sure to be a bestseller, tell me I’ll make lots of money. Send it to me, but address it to another agent. You’d be amazed how often this happens. Make it clear it’s a form letter, where my name is hand-written in. It makes me think it’s been to a million other agents.

  1. What catches your eye and makes you want to read someone’s work?

JK: A tightly-crafted letter with a great single- or two-sentence description of the work, and an author with very good credentials — published in national magazines, or with a national platform; winning awards, and so forth.

LD: One, a recommendation; two, a clear description of the work with few superfluous sentences; three, previous publications.

FE: Pizzazz in the query letter. Good, maybe great credentials — either on the person’s expertise, or publishing background. An original approach without being overly corny; sometimes writers cross the line in making something way too cute. It’s strong, original writing that catches my eye.

  1. As writers, we hear stories of the “good old days” where agents and editors would nurture a promising writer with two or three books until they reached top form. In your opinion, was this ever the case, and if so, what changed it?

JK: I think that’s still the case with agents and editors. It’s all about nurturing and building up a brand name.

LD: It was true a long time ago. Agents will nurture for longer than editors will. Editors now must justify their salaries in a way that they never had to before. Unless that writer gets fabulous reviews and there’s a whiff of a Nobel prize in the air, then that editor has to maintain a wall between himself or herself and the writer — or else the editor will end up standing next to the writer, looking at the publishing house from the outside rather than the inside.

FE: I’ve been around for a while, and though things were never ‘great’ still there are definite differences today. People used to buy a book they loved but didn’t think would be a great commercial success, for small money, publish it well and hope that it would help establish a writer for his/her next book. Today no one (of the major houses at least) wants to spend small money on a book with small expectations. They just can’t buy those books; they need to meet minimums in terms of the number of copies they can get out. Also, previously if someone was a good writer, credentials and platform weren’t nearly as important as they are today. Now, without that, it’s a long, difficult, uphill battle and most editors aren’t willing to fight that fight. So yes, things are different.

  1. If you could give a new author one piece of advice to help advance his/her career, what would it be?

JK: Build up your credentials! By that I mean: One, learn to make your writing as solid, tight, and wonderful as possible; and two, become an “authority” on your subject, with some kind of very strong regional, or national, platform.

LD: Cultivate a following on National Public Radio. Come up with a high concept gimmick.

FE: Build credentials — short stories or magazine and newspaper pieces. Contests, supportive quotes from any major name you know. Build up a good case for why your work needs to be taken seriously, and then, amazingly enough, it will be. That’s no guarantee it will be bought, but at least it will be read and that’s an important first step.

I also asked one final question, half-jokingly: “When you become a literary agent, are you automatically required to use the word ‘subjective’ in your rejections?” Liza Dawson says yes: “Every time we send out a rejection notice we’re afraid that we’re going to spark a suicide, or reject a fabulously successful novel and the author will then make merciless fun of the agents who rejected the book and post the pompous rejections on his web site.”

Felicia Eth had this response: “You know, I do use ‘subjective’ myself, because it is. In fact, I don’t love ‘commercial’ novels, with all that implies, and probably reject a fair number of them that are good and likely to sell. But that’s not what I do, not what I like, and though other agents probably think I’m nuts, that’s my criteria. Authors should know that. I told someone this week that I don’t do Mob novels — and said, ‘yes I probably would have rejected the Godfather.’ So that’s how subjective it is.”

An important thing to remember is that this ruthless business is also difficult from the agent’s perspective. The goal of an agent is not to crush the spirit of a new writer, who often has great potential but simply is not ready to seek publication. The only way to succeed is to write, rewrite, edit and write again, until your work is perfectly polished. At that point, remember the business of publishing is, indeed, subjective. What one agent hates, another may love.

More of What Agents Really Want

Dear Author: Your work sounds intriguing. I would be interested in seeing the first fifty pages, along with a synopsis and your original query letter.

Best, Joe Agent

Now what do you do? Page fifty leaves the heroine dangling precariously from the outer tip of

See my point? Should you send forty-five pages, which ends a chapter and has a better breaking point, or should you send seventy-five pages, which ends the chapter you started on page forty-six?

For this question, I went straight to the source. I asked six agents exactly how they felt about the following questions:

  1. If you ask someone for the first fifty pages, and they send you fifty-two, because that is where a chapter breaks, are you going to disregard their work because they didn’t follow your guidelines?
  2. Should a writer automatically send a synopsis? If so, how long should that synopsis be?
  3. How long should a query letter be?

Overwhelmingly, the agents I asked stated that a writer sending extra pages or a few less than requested would not really affect how they look at the work. They had differing opinions on whether or not to send a synopsis and how long it should be. From their answers I believe that you should only send a synopsis if the agent requests it. All were in agreement again, however, when it comes to a query letter being only one page long. Keep it short.

Kind enough to respond politely to my inquiries were B.J. Robbins of B.J. Robbins Literary Agency; Liza Dawson, of Liza Dawson Associates; William Contardi, formerly of William Morris who is now with Brandt and Hochman; Pam Strickler, of Pam Strickler Literary Management; Simon Lipskar of Writers House; Linda Hyatt of Hyatt Literary Agency; Jeff Kleinman of Greybill and English; and Nicole Aragi, who recently left Watkins-Loomis to start her own agency.

If you ask someone for the first fifty pages, and they send you fifty-two, because that is where a chapter breaks, are you going to disregard their work because they didn’t follow your guidelines?

BJR: No, I would never disregard or reject out of hand someone’s work if they sent me a few pages more than I had requested. I ask for the first three chapters, which eliminates this problem.

LD: Of course not!

WC: Of course not… fifty pages give or take, this is a writerocracy not an agentatorship.

PS: No, that would be fine.

SL: Of course not. If there’s a natural break somewhere near fifty pages, then send that many pages. However, if the first chapter ends on page ninety-seven and the agent has requested fifty pages, just send fifty pages.

LH: Two pages will not break or make a writer. But, when I am overwhelmed with submissions and I respond with “I am not accepting submissions at this time” I do expect the author to heed my statement and try at a later date.

JK: I’m a completely crappy person to ask about that kind of stuff, because I frankly don’t care very much. I tend to think, though, that writers should try to follow an agent’s requests–because there are a lot of completely anal-retentive agents out there. The feeling is that if a writer can’t follow simple directions like send X, they’ll probably be difficult to work with for editing and editors.

NA No, of course not, the fifty-page guideline is just rough. I usually ask for fifty pages, or three chapters, or whatever “cut” seems most logical. Under no circumstances should they send a mix of chapters. It’s infuriating to receive a query letter with chapters twelve and thirteen enclosed. Like any reader, an agent wants to start at the beginning.

Should a writer automatically send a synopsis? If so, how long should that synopsis be?

BJR: I don’t request a synopsis, since I find them tedious to read, but if a writer wants to include one that’s fine. It should be short (those twenty-eight-page chapter outlines are a complete waste of time and I never read them) and in narrative form if possible.

LD: A short one. One to two pages. Short is better.

WC: [I’m] not that interested in a synopsis, more about the writing itself. Doesn’t hurt, but Êseveral lines in a cover letter is just as if not more effective.

PS: I think so. I prefer five pages or less.

SL: Yes. One to two pages maximum.

LH: I prefer a pitch letter, with writing credentials and the points of the story so I will be able to tell right away if it is something I can market. A synopsis should be as long as is necessary to work as a selling tool for the novel.

JK: It never hurts. I rarely read ’em unless I really like the book, and then I always want to see how the book will go. I think you should try to limit it to one to two pages, maximum. Double-spaced, of course. And make it read really, really smoothly, too. (Yeah, right–it’s far easier said than done!)

NA: It can be helpful, but is not essential. Whereas receiving a synopsis without a sample chapter(s) is distinctly unhelpful. Reading a sample of the text is the only way to make a judgment. [The synopsis] should be no more than a couple of paragraphs.

How long should a query letter be?

BJR: Query letters should be short and to the point, no more than one page. I want to know who you are, what you’ve written, where you’ve studied, and any other pertinent information that will help you stand out from the pack. Avoid cutesy, gimmicky letters or anything overly obsequious or grandiose.

LD: One page. Unless it’s brilliant and there is a lot to say.

WC: One page-ish with writer credits and a paragraph summation of the book.

PS: Short, on one page.

SL: No more than a single page. Remember, though, if you can’t write an enticing query letter, agents will invariably assume that you can’t write an enticing novel.

LH: A pitch letter can be one or two pages.

JK: Never more than one page.

NA: Again, a couple of paragraphs, not more.


So there you have it. Keep your query letter to one page. Make it concise and to the point. Do not tell the agent his or her business. Rather, let them know what your credentials are, and why they should read your book. Don’t forget your hook. Your first line is without a doubt the most important one in the whole letter. If the agent asks for a synopsis, send one, but keep it short. Don’t send lengthy chapter outlines. Do send sample chapters, beginning with chapter one.

And if your fifty pages need one or two more pages to complete a chapter or an important scene, by all means include them. When an agent responds to your query positively, pay attention to what they are saying. Most often, they will tell you exactly what they want. Staying within the guidelines as closely as possible guarantees you the best chance of success.

Happy Agent Seeking Ya’ll!!!

What do Agents look for in a manuscript??

This is what every writer who wished to get published, asked themselves at some point in their writing endeavor. It’s a serious question. What is going to make your book stand out amongst hundreds of others? It can be quite overwhelming, and if you think about it too much you might stop yourself from trying all together.

So what do you do? You gotta start somewhere, and if you’re going to do this, then you need to do it right.

Focus on the things you CAN control in your writing. If you take the time to find out what literary agents are really looking for, then you’ve taken half the step in making your manuscript shine in the middle of all the others. Now, don’t confuse what I’m saying. I’m not telling you to go find the latest writing trend out there like boy wizards, vampires, and girl heroes and write about that. By the time you got finished there would be a new trend started anyways. Relish in being an individual and making your writing yours, and yours alone.

What I’m ACTUALLY talking about, is how to present your work to an agent with professionalism and a progressive working knowledge of what writing is all about in the publishing industry. No, agent expects you to know everything. What they DO expect, is for you to put forth an effort in your presentation, have a willingness to learn, and the understanding that it’s a partnership, not a parent-child relationship or even a boss-employee one.


I guess, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The first step is to catch an agent’s eye. What do they look for?

Here’s a list of some of the qualities that literary agents want to see in a new manuscript. Of course, there are really no set criteria, and agents are going to be going on their gut instincts more often than not. But at the same time, if you keep these things in mind when writing you’ll increase your chances of finding an agent to represent your book:

Killer Query Letter – It’s worth mentioning that agents won’t even see your actual BOOK until you’ve intrigued them with an excellent query letter. This letter needs to convey the uniqueness and marketability of your book in just a few paragraphs. Make sure to spend some serious time and effort on your query letter. You’re a writer, after all! If it doesn’t sparkle, why would an agent assume the prose in your manuscript is any good?

Marketability – Hmmm…What the heck does that mean? Well, will your book sell? To how many people? Maybe you’ve written the definitive volume on the Wizarding World, golden rings, or vampire love. While that may be exactly what a niche press is looking for, it probably doesn’t have the makings of the next Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight. (Not yet, anyways.) To attract an agent (whose main task will be to get you a deal with one of the major houses), you’ll need to write a book that can sell, and sell big. The broader the appeal, the better your chances.

Uniqueness – Having broad appeal does not mean you need to pander. It shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter book. You should provide new perspectives on a relatable theme, or twist expectations in pleasing ways. Can you make the familiar new? If you have then, you’ve upped your chances of finding an agent.

Memorable – The people you want to impress most are the hardest people to impress. They have a hundred other manuscripts on their desk right now. At the end of the day, did your query letter stand out? Did you hook them enough with a few paragraphs so they want to read the whole manuscript? And when they read the book, did you leave them with a feeling they can’t shake? Did you make them laugh the loudest? Think the hardest? Uncap their deepest reservoir of sorrow? With so much competition, your book needs to be worth a second thought.

Clear demographic – This is part of marketing, of course, but you want to be sure your book has a target audience and an obvious place on bookstore’s shelves. While you SHOULD be unique, you don’t want your book to be so complex and convoluted that people don’t know what to do with it.

Along these lines, if someone asked you what your book was all about, could you pitch it to them in two sentences or less? Could you convey something about the plot, characters, attitude, AND style, all in a matter of seconds? If so, agents, editors, and publishers will appreciate the effort to keep things succinct! Plus, if your pitch is concise and descriptive, they probably will assume your writing is equally crisp and focused.

Polished Product – Does your book read like a finished work of art? Ask friends to read it and point out any flaws they find (grammar, syntax, character development, continuity, etc.) The less work an agent has to do to prepare your book for the big time, the more they’ll like you.

So, those are my thoughts. What has your experience been like finding an agent? Any other tips? I’d love to hear about them!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!

Tips on Pitching to an Agent and what to Expect (In my experience)…Part 2

Untitled pitch

Here we are again with Part 2 of pitching to an agent and what to expect. Plus, a few tips on how to prepare. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out Part 1, here’s the link, Let’s get right to it then, shall we?

Let’s talk about things you should do prior to the Pitch Slam.

1. First, stop saying 90-seconds. It sounds better when you say 3-minutes, like it’s more time or something. Yes, I know it’s a mental thing, but whatever. Saying 90-seconds is bad. You’ve been telling your friends and family that you have the opportunity to pitch your manuscript, (the one they’ve heard about nonstop for eternity now) to actual agents, face-to-face. They’re super excited for you, until you mention that it’s only for 90-seconds. That’s when they cock their head slightly to the side, and give you a look, “come again? How the crap are you going to do that?” Don’t let that go to your head and don’t freak out about those 3-minutes.

You’re not freaking out anymore, are you? Good. Cause you actually need to make that 3-minute pitch into a 2-minute pitch. “That’s impossible,” you scream. I can actually here you right now. Stop holding your breath! Just breathe and hear me out. You can do it, I promise. How do I know, well, cause I’ve done it. This is not a race where you say an entire paragraph without breathing, and then get up and leave. The agent needs to have enough time to ask questions or hand you that golden ticket, their business card. You need to have enough time to write down what they want. There’s all kinds of scenarios, so as best you can, get that pitch down to 2 minutes.

2. Research the agents. I can not stress this enough!!!! The worst thing you can do is sit down with an agent who only represents nonfiction, and start spouting off your sci-fi novel. That’s not really gonna work out.

Another important reason for research, is that you don’t want them to feel like a number, just like you wouldn’t want them to treat you. Take time to research the agents and find out different things about them. Most, if not all agents, have some type of website or social media that will help you delve into them more, what their interests, likes and dislikes are, or what they represent and what they don’t. Take time to know them, as you would hope one day they would you, if your partnership continues. Prior to me meeting Marisa Corvisiero, I learned from her website, that she has her own law practice as well as her own literary agency. That lady is amazing, if I haven’t already said it. She is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and can even speak some Japanese and Portuguese. I wouldn’t have known that except I did my research. Or the fact, that Kaylee Davis, who is super super sweet by the way, had a family pet rabbit named Dash. (Funny side story, at the cocktail party I asked Kaylee how Dash was, to which she graciously and so kindly told me he had died. I was mortified, of course, that I had asked at all after that. But she was a good sport about it, and found me asking humorous…whew. Shout out Kaylee! And thanks for understanding!)

3. Practice your pitch a lot prior to the conference. A lot. Time yourself, and repeat it to friends, family, and anyone who will listen. I, actually, was so blessed to meet a few fantastic girls the first day at the conference. They were awesome help with listening and giving suggestions for my pitch. It totally helped with my nerves and coming out of my shell when talking about my manuscript. Sure, you love talking with your friends and family about your writing, but it was an entirely new excitement that I can’t quite put into words when I finally talked to other writers that understood the whole journey of ups and downs in writing a manuscript.

When saying your pitch, as best you can, try to make it a natural transfer. Try to look at it like a normal conversation between two friends. It’s super hard when you’re so nervous, but as best you can try not to sound like a robot. Again, agents understand completely how stressful this is. I had one or two give me a nod and a smile, silently speaking to that it was okay and to just take my time. Take a deep breath. You’ll do great!

What exactly do I need to say during my pitch?

Chuck Sambuchino does a fantastic job in explaining this prior to your Pitch Slam. Here are the basics, though. Think of your pitch as the back of a DVD movie description. Just imagine what it would say. Which duh, everyone hopes that their books will become movies or some super fantastic HBO show. So, that’s what you need to picture when describing your manuscript for your pitch. I actually, got some of my fantasy/paranormal movies out and looked at the back of them to get some wording ideas. That’s totally okay! Also, you will need to say at the very beginning of your pitch what the title of your book is (if you have one), genre, word count, and if it’s considered an adult, middle grade, young adult, etc.

So what are you exactly seeking from a Pitch Slam?…(other than the obvious finding an agent to represent you.)

You want a business card. You could say it’s your Golden Ticket, sort of. If an agent gives you a business card that doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign the dotted line of a contract with you, BUT it does mean you just took another step in finding representation. You’ve captured their attention and they’re interested in knowing more. Good Job! That’s half the battle! I actually got business cards from all five agents I pitched to. The writing gods were with me!! LOL!

Should I go in order of agent I want the most to least, or just go to whichever line is the shortest at the time?

Again, this is your own preference. Some choose lines because they’re shorter. Their main goal is to pitch to as many agents in their genre, as possible. Others go by the agent they’re most interested in and go from there. They’re willing to wait in line for that certain agent, sacrificing possibly having time with two others. Just keep in mind though, that an hour and a half goes by quickly, and it would be terrible to miss out on pitching to the number one agent you wanted, just because you ran out of time. I preferred, the route of going from my top choice agent to my last pick. I also looked at the table map that was given ahead of time, to see exactly where my agents sat. I was in luck that two of them sat at tables next to each other. That saved time in itself. (P.S. you will be given the table map either in you’re welcome packet or during the, Pitch Perfect session, with Chuck Sambuchino.)

How many agents will I be able to pitch to during my pitch session?

Well, that’s really up to you, and how well you prepare. The Writer’s Conference website constantly updates new agents that will be at the Pitch Slam. They give you plenty of time to see which ones are right for you, so that you can map out who you want to see first, second, and so on. If you get there early like I suggested, than you’re closer to the front when they open the doors. You can be one of the first people to enter and head straight to your first pitch with the agent of your choice.

You can pitch to as many agents as you like, and have time for. Plan from anywhere between five and seven agents to pitch to. That way, if one cancels, you still have others to choose from. You don’t want to wander around because you didn’t do your research on enough agents and you still had time to pitch. Let’s get real here too, you paid for this, so make the most of it. It would be terrible to pitch to three agents and then have to twiddle your thumbs for the rest of the time because you weren’t prepared. Just remember, most of your time is used up waiting in line. I’ve heard of some people getting to pitch to up to eight agents. It just depends. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to all of them. Just make the ones you do see, count. Quality, is better than quantity at times.

I pitched to five out of the six agents I wanted. The only reason I didn’t get to the sixth was because one of them canceled at the last-minute. (The conference workers are very good at letting you know if an agent has had to cancel before you have your pitch session, so don’t worry about that.)

Can I give the agent my business card or my query letter during my pitch session?

NOOOOOO! Do not hand the agent, anything. I can’t stress that, enough. Can you imagine if everyone gave an agent just the first page of their manuscript? That would be a ton for them to carry around! I wouldn’t want to do it and neither do they. I promise you, if you get a business card from them, you’ll definitely be giving them some things soon enough.

Is there anything in particular I need to bring to my Pitch session?

A pen is an absolute necessity (one that works, obviously). Hopefully, the agent is going to give you a card and tell you exactly what they want you to send them after the conference. Keep in mind, no agent is going to want the exact same thing. Believe me, you will have so much adrenaline rushing in, and your brain will be mush once the Pitch Slam is over, so you won’t remember much. It’s kinda like your wedding, if any of you have been married you know what I’m talking about. A lot of preparation prior to, and then BAM! It’s over and you’re so exhausted you can’t remember half of it. Thank goodness for wedding photos.

Anyway, keep that pen handy. Hold it in your hand the entire time if you have to. You don’t want to be digging around in your bag for it. I suggest, when the agent hands you their card, you jot down immediately on the back of it, exactly what that particular agent wanted. Otherwise, you might end up forgetting something, and send the wrong stuff. That would be a travesty. Like…seriously. Other than that, there really isn’t anything you HAVE to bring with you. You can bring a copy of your pitch for yourself in case you forget exactly what you need to say. But ,I would recommend you not read it from the page when pitching. If you can help it at all, memorize that bad boy way before you even get to the conference. During your Pitch Perfect Session with Chuck, he may tell you a few things you might want to tweak on your pitch, but at least for the most part you won’t have to start from scratch re-memorizing it.

What if the agent doesn’t give me a business card?

Well, move along then. Thank them regardless for the opportunity and their time. Because their time is important. They don’t have to be at these conferences. They choose to be. They want to have the opportunity to hear your pitch but not every single one is the right fit. Don’t get discouraged. Every agent just like you, have their own tastes. Don’t take it to heart. Remember, in this business there is A LOT of rejection. I repeat, a lot of rejection. The right agent might be the very next table. Keep your chin up!

Whatever you do…DO NOT argue with an agent about your pitch or manuscript. Be gracious, even when the agent tells you that they’re sorry and it’s not something they see would be a good fit for them. You want your agent to love your manuscript and the ideas behind it as much as you do. (There was a story going around last year that someone from a previous conference actually lunged towards an agent because she told him it wasn’t for her. Seriously guy, you just murdered your career before it even started. Can you say, psycho?) If you snap something back to them, or worse, no one would ever touch you after that, even if your manuscript was made of gold and shot out stars from the pages. Don’t do it. Be professional, and even if you believe the agent is wrong, don’t show it. Have some respect for their experience and knowledge. If anything, keep your own dignity and have some self-respect. There are plenty of agents out there.

Can an agent stop me in the middle of my pitch?

Absolutely. Don’t be surprised if they do. Sometimes, it’s to ask questions. Which is actually, a good thing. Answer them as best you can, and continue on with your pitch if they still want you to. I wasn’t as prepared for this, as I thought. All you focus goes into your pitch prior to the conference, and basically all the way up until you finish your pitch session. Gina Panettieri, started asking me questions in the middle of mine, and I was so thrown off. But duh, that was a super good thing she asked questions. She was intrigued! Other times, it’s because they’ve heard enough to love it, and want to give you a business card. Some unfortunately, after a sentence or two realize it’s really not something they’re interested in. That’s okay. They’re actually doing you a favor. You can go ahead and move on to the next agent you wanted to pitch to. You don’t have to stay there for the full 3-minutes (I’ll talk about this in just a second). The agent, is actually being respectful to you, by saving time that you could spend with another agent who might be interested.

Do I have to use my entire 3-minutes with an agent?

Well, there’s two parts to that question.

Let’s say you pitch so fast and get all your feedback from the agent before that 3-minutes is up. I know it sounds crazy, but it happens. If you’ve practiced your pitch enough times, it can flow pretty quickly. You can choose to stay until your 3-minutes are up, or you can choose to give it to the next person in line. In my opinion, I believe that the admirable thing to do is giving the next person extra time if your finished. Obviously, you would love for someone to give extra time if the roles were reversed. Remember, this isn’t a competition. Writers are a tribe. We stick together and encourage. If we truly want to be a good writer, then it goes past the words we put on the page. We respect and help each other.

The second part to that question is this, and boy, did I not know it. You can actually sit past your 3-minutes if the agent is still talking to you about your manuscript. Now, I won’t tell you that the people behind you won’t be a little upset, and obviously the ONLY reason you should stay seated after the bell is because of this situation. Again, it’s all about respect, and you don’t want to eat into someone else’s time. The agents notice that stuff. But, in my case again, I was pitching to Gina. She was still asking questions when the bell rang. I got up thinking that I absolutely had to, which meant I rushed the last of my answers. (She still asked for my full manuscript, which was SUPER exciting. I basically floated around the rest of the Pitch Slam). So, just heads up if this happens. Again, try to be respectful to the other people in line, though.

Well, that’s it. Or at least, the main things I believe are important. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions if you’ve pitched before, or if you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them if I can. I really, really hope this helps everyone! To the people who are going to the conference, good luck! You’ll do fantastic! It is going to be one of the most exciting times in your life! Enjoy!

I wasn’t able to download any of my own pictures of the conference last year, but here’s a link to the Writer’s Digest website,, that shows a bunch of pictures from the 2014 conference. There are even some pictures before and during the Pitch Slam, so you can get an idea of what it’s like.

Happy Pitching Ya’ll!!