December 31, 2010

5 Steps to a Perfect Submission

NOTE: This article has now been published in 7 different chapters across the US and Canada for Romance Writers of America, is now being considered for Mystery Writer's of America SoCal chapter newsletter and is on submission for Writer's Digest's October 2011 issue.

As fiction writers, we strive to perfect our submission process to catch our dream agent’s attention and this can only be accomplished by using the basic pattern of submission rules that each agent has constructed to suit them individually. Following these five simple steps, even a novice writer will be ahead of the game when taking their masterpiece out into the world.
Finish the book.  DO NOT submit to an agent unless you are able to use the word “completed” (with word count) in your query. This doesn’t mean first draft material either. Not only do you take that final plunge in writing “The End” at the bottom of that last page, but you have to take your book a step further. Edit and revise several times, which may include several man hours, weeks or years depending on your life and your idea of revisions. But the most important part of this step is that you do it. Your manuscript (MS) is an extension of you and will be the deciding factor in catching an agent. Make it into a masterpiece and then hand it over to someone else.
And I don’t mean your mom. Getting your work critiqued can be daunting. Your work is going out into the world, you’re nervous, you’re not sure if your trusted friend will like your characters or the world you’ve built for them, but here’s the hard truth: you want to be an author. You’re going to have to get over those nervous jitters and accept that not everyone has the same taste. Besides, moms lie. Use your loyal writing community. Don’t have one? Start by reading other writer’s blogs. Befriend them and they will welcome you with open arms. They might even teach you something. The online writing community is always willing to help and know what agent’s are looking for. They will BETA-read for you. They will give you feedback and you will consider every word because you want the best chance of getting noticed by an agent. Of course, you have to use your own judgment in their suggestions as well. This is your work and you know it best.
Because your MS is an extension of yourself, you want it to look professional. So format. This will tell your chosen agent just how serious you are. There are many different opinions on what your header should contain, to bold or italicize the title page and what font to use and a nice tool to answer all these questions is Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino.

Synopsis. Nicknamed the “dreaded synopsis”, the synopsis is your second step in the submission process and unfortunately required. Some writers believe writing an entire novel is easier that consolidating it down to a few pages and I’d have to agree. Contrary to popular belief, the synopsis is NOT a play-by-play of your MS. Instead, think of it as the summary on the back of your book when it’s published, only two to five pages rather than a couple paragraphs. Summaries don’t tell the entire story and neither should your synopsis. You will have the main points and the ending, of course, but the synopsis should be emotional rather than physical. Who are the main characters? What’s at stake? What are their goals, motivations and conflicts? Tell the agent why your readers will keep turning the page, but in a brief summary.

Write the Query Letter.  Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. Just like the synopsis, the query letter is required. This is how you’re going to catch an agent’s attention and make them want to represent you and your work. Further consolidating your MS into two or three paragraphs seems impossible, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Start with a hook line. You’ve already done this in your actual MS. Your hook line is the first sentence that keeps your reader wanting more and you have to do the same in your query letter. Make the agent keep reading your sales pitch. Make her eager to request more material. Because that’s all we as fiction writers really want: a chance to share the real masterpiece.
Two to three paragraphs is plenty to express the goals, motivation and conflict of your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Keep it simple. Give the agent the basics, just as you’ve done in your synopsis, but keep them wanting more with conflict. Agents receive thousands of submissions each month and more than you’d think take up more than one page. Two hundred and fifty words is usually the maximum agents are willing to consider for each submission.
Once you’ve got your query cleaned up, send it off to your trusted critique partner or submit it to The Public Query Slushpile (, hosted by Rick Daley. The site is an excellent resource to get free critiques and feedback.

Comprise your list of agents. Your list of agents needs to compliment your work. Genre, for example, is the most important factor in selecting your agents. You don’t want to submit your thriller to an agent who only represents romance. An easy way to sift through the thousands of agents is to obtain a copy of Writer’s Market or subscribe online for about $5.99 a month, check out Agent Query (, or head over to Preditors and Editors ( With these valuable resources, you can weed out agents through an advanced search of genre, website availability and much more. Once you have a basic list, it’s time to research.

Researching your agents. Besides the query letter, researching your agents is the most important step in the submission process and the most time consuming. You will need to read up on every single agent on your list in order to tell the agent why your MS is going to fit them personally in your query. When I say “fit”, I mean you need to know which agent you will be submitting to (some agencies house more than one agent and yes, you need to know the agents name. None of this “Dear Agent” crap), what their submission guidelines are, how to submit to them (snail mail or email), and finally, and what book sales of theirs might compare to your MS. It’s hard trying to compare someone else’s work to yours since yours is so unique, but it can, and must be done. This little tidbit of information gives the agent confidence that you’ve done your homework and tells them just how serious you are about being published.

These five steps will put you ahead of the other two thousand submissions a single agent receives every month and may even lead to that call or email you’ve been waiting for. I wish you the best of luck!

December 29, 2010

To the Writer Community...I Need Help

Dear friends of the Internet,

I'm researching agents. Yay! Not. This is the point where my query letter is finished and now I need to personalize it to every agent in my list. I'm doing this by researching the agent's sales, comparing my work to others.

Here's where I need help.

I have two perfect comparisons that I've included in my query letter for one agent. I'm not sure if there will be other books out there that can compare so well. Can I keep those two throughout my submission process for EVERY agent, assuming they know the books I'm speaking of or do I need to go even further and find different comparisons for EACH agent?

December 27, 2010

The State of Mind

I have a secret: all of my short story plots come from dreams. Very rarely I dream, but when I do, I tend to memorize every moment, every action and, when I wake, I write them down. In my dreams, I'm never myself, I'm always looking down. My "characters" can have my name, they can act like me, but they never look like me and I'm never in that first person chair.

I write like this, too. Never in first person (I just don't have the patience to use "I" in every sentence and even now I'm a little bothered). I was taught and grew up to write third person. The "characters" in my dreams don't have names or personalities until I take the notes I've written from my dreams and start a new creation, but I already know the plot :)

Do you utilize your dreams in your work? Have they ever given you that blockbuster plot?

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break. The New Year is coming soon!

December 23, 2010

Microsoft Word Grammar Checker and the Blunders Within

Microsoft Word Grammar Checker (MSGC), and any other grammar-checking programs, should not be relied on to fix all grammar mistakes, teach appropriate grammar or institute better writing. Neither is it a valued replacement for a human being in any type of setting.

Microsoft has been the leading software engineering company for the past decade, placing their Office products in nearly every home that owns a computer in the United States. Word is one of those Office products, helping students, writers and users of all ages to present their projects in a professional manner and is accompanied by Grammar Checker. Industry experts estimate Microsoft’s current share of the word processing software market at somewhere between 80 and 90 percent (McGee and Ericsson 455) and conclude its brand name alone gives the Microsoft Grammar Checker a kind of influence that is difficult (perhaps impossible) to calculate (McGee and Ericsson 462). When utilized, the program can be helpful, but cannot always be trusted by novice writers. For example, the following sentence, “Microsoft the company should big improve Word grammar check” (Bishop 1) is correct according to MSGC 2010.
The dependability of MSGC is flawed. Users will have a different opinion of the program, each according to their own specific needs, but will see clearly that technology will never be able to respond, think and write as well as a human being. MSGC will not correct all mistakes in a given document. As advised by advanced writers and scholars of Composition, users need to know the basic rules of grammar, and the program itself, before trusting their work to any type of grammar-checking software. Otherwise, the program will lead a user to their own failure.

If you'd like to learn more of the research I've conducted for this paper, just let me know! I will send the entire 9 pages to you with specific examples of why the Grammar Checker can lead you astray in your own writing. I found it helpful, considering I use the program EVERY day and I learned what I need to look for when it comes to grammar. Someday a copyeditor may be proud of me...dream...

December 19, 2010


Ah! I'm falling behind...on everything! This break between semesters is kicking my butt. I have a whole list of things I'd like to accomplish before the only books I'm reading are the ones I'm forced to for a grade, but sadly, this is not the case! I have yet to finish revisions on ALL BECAUSE OF YOU and I'm only a chapter and an epilogue away! Grr.

However, I have completed my New Year's Resolution for 2010 in reading 52, never-before-read, books. :)

I have a post in mind for Friday that will, hopefully, help those of you in the writing world put Microsoft Word Grammar Checker in perspective. My research came as a surprise, considering I use the program EVERY DAY.

Until then...I will miss you - my followers. Sorry I've been away! I'm hoping to get back in the swing of things soon :)

December 12, 2010

Almost There!

REVISIONS are almost complete for ALL BECAUSE OF YOU! I'm so close. Right now, I've just started working on the last chapter. After that, there's the Epilogue and then I'm done. Done! There haven't been any major plot revisions - thank goodness! - but, as I said before, my first chapter was originally back story. Those scenes within that chapter are now spread out throughout the book and the "biggest case of Marcus' career" is now emphasized. The revisions are mostly small, but have made the MS so much better!

Being that I'm almost done - BETA readers PLEASE! Let me know!

December 10, 2010

Impromtu Rewards

So, while on my break at work today, I decided to check Lauren Kate's blog to check for the latest updates. On the side of her blog there is a widget that posts her Twitter updates and, low and behold, I found out that Lauren Kate was in Vegas! I'd actually been wishing she would visit Vegas sometime soon and I got my wish. And she was at the Borders less than a mile away from work. Husband and I work for the same company, so we have one car. We drive to work together and go home together. Lauren wasn't going to appear at Borders until 7PM! What did I do? I dragged him along of course :)
Lauren Kate reading a scene from Torment
Lauren and I after she just signed my book!
Lauren before the reading
I found Lauren Kate absolutely delightful! She was very well composed, answered questions without hesitation, and made some great jokes. I'm so glad I took this opportunity!

In Their Own Words: Adelaide's Monster

There’s a reason Adelaide calls me a monster.
I lurk behind her eyes, unable to escape the prison of her mind as I wait to be free from the cage she’s subjected herself to. I do what nobody else can: I make everything better, but only for my own price.
Yes, I love the feel of it on my skin, the taste of it in my mouth and I certainly enjoy the sounds Adelaide’s victims make in their last moments. Mmm, I can remember them all with such clarity.
I’m smarter, faster and more motivated than any one of these men standing in my way and soon, I will be free of medication, and Adelaide will embrace me with open arms.
So tell me, what are you afraid of?

December 8, 2010

In Their Own Words: Adelaide Banvard

My name is Adelaide and I’m a killer. The voice inside my head will say there’s nothing wrong with that, but I never wanted my life to be this way. She sounds like me, the voice that whispers to me when I’m awake, at least as far as I can tell. I haven’t heard my own voice in nineteen years and neither has anyone else. It’s a trust issue. Kidnapped at the age of seven, I was the price for my father’s decisions and it ruined my life.  Forcing myself to remain mute gives me the feeling of control and I always need to be in control.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I’d been aloud to grow up as a normal child, away from the fights I was forced to participate in until I was sixteen. That was when I escaped. Christian was the one who saved me, tying my fate to his that day. In a way, I love him. He can control my monster, but for a price. He’s made me into his own assassin.
I want out and I’m willing to do anything to get what I want, but I never expected my chance to appear so soon or in the form of my enemy. 
Just remembering the sound of his voice calms the beast inside and I can’t get enough, but Christian would see me dead before letting me go, especially to an ATF agent who wants us all behind bars.
I’m lost, but have never thought so clearly before in my life.

December 5, 2010

We Interrupt This Series...

During my Beta-ing services, I've come across a very interesting topic. Interesting to me, anyway.

Present vs. Past tense writing

Now, I'd have to say all of the books I read, including YA, are written in past tense (i.e. I looked over to her.), but, as one of my Betas pointed out, YA is usually written in present tense (i.e. I look over to her.)

For me, in any type of writing, present tense just sounds off and I've never read or written any novels in present tense. question to my Beta correct in stating that most YA is written in present tense? Are you comfortable writing in present tense or does it sound off to you as well?

Please chime in! I really would like to know for future critiques.

December 3, 2010

In Their Own Words - Marcus

Ah, hi. I’m Marcus. But I guess you already knew that. Don’t really know why I’m here. There’s not a lot to say.
I grew up here in Los Angeles, recruited to the Marines when I was twenty. That didn’t work out so well as you can imagine. Dishonorable discharge. Been with ATF ever since. I’m married, but that isn’t working out too well either. Work’s just too important right now. I’m on the biggest case of my career. I’m in there. I have Wren’s trust. I can’t just give that up. But, what I thought would be a slam-dunk, is turning into my own personal nightmare.
            I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t even fight without thinking of Adelaide. It’s driving me mad. She’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me, but she’s crazy! Literally insane and I love her all the more for it. Adelaide is unlike any other woman I’ve met, but the only way I can have her is behind bars.

December 1, 2010

In Their Own Words - Christian

   I’ve worked my way to the top and there’s no one who can take that away from me. I single-handedly made my company the leading manufacturer of weapons, but, as with any profession, being at the top isn’t easy. I’ve had to make my deals, some illegally, but nothing has stopped me from getting what I want. 

Especially when it comes to Adelaide.

I’ve dedicated my soul to her from the time I was sixteen. I went through hell to keep her for myself, saving her from that bastard Vicente. He made her into a slave, but I was the one who taught her how to survive and provided for her with everything I could. But she refuses to trust me, refuses to trust anyone. I would never let anyone hurt her. She’s my entire world and I will kill anyone who tries to keep us apart.

I’ve already dealt with one traitor in my ranks and now I’m forced to do so again. Adelaide is losing her touch with Marcus around, giving into the fantasy that she can live without me, but she has no idea what it’s like out there in the world. That damn ATF agent is planning to take her away from me, to let her loose, but I won’t let him.