Archive | May, 2010

The Supernatural Tour Giveaway!

31 May

by Vanessa Di Gregorio


Hey all, it’s me again!

Today we’re going to do something different: we’re going to give away a signed copy of a book! Because every once in a while, it’s nice to take a little break from writing to read. After all, there is nothing better than reading to help inspire you.

Last Thursday, I attended an event called “The Supernatural Tour” in Toronto. There were author readings, a Q+A session, a pretty cool swag bag, an author signing session, and… oh, yes. Three authors!

The Supernatural Tour

Having multiple authors was great (because how often do you get to hear three individual authors read from their new books and talk about writing, all in the same night?). I had the pleasure of meeting three extraordinary ladies: fellow Torontonian Lesley Livingston, Aprilynn Pike, and Kim Harrison. They bounced around ideas and had such great chemistry together; it was really great seeing them joke around and voice their differences.

So, just who are these women?

Me with Lesley Livingston
Lesley Livingston is the author of the CLA award-winning, and Quill & Quire Best Book of the Year WONDROUS STRANGE. Lesley is a writer and actor living in Toronto, Canada, and her second novel, DARKLIGHT, is also out in stores. I had the wonderful opportunity to see the cover of the third novel in the Wondrous Strange trilogy!

Me with Aprilynne Pike
Aprilynn Pike is the author of the #1 New York Times best-selling debut, WINGS. It is the first of four books about a seemingly ordinary girl with a not-so-ordinary destiny, and – get this! – the film rights to WINGS have been optioned to Disney! Not bad for a debut author!

Me with Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison is the best-selling author of the adult series THE HOLLOWS, which is now on it’s eighth book! She is also the author of a new YA series, the first book being ONCE DEAD, TWICE SHY. She decided to write a YA series because she found her love of reading with YA fiction as a young girl.

So, with these three women in the room with me, I obviously had to jot down some of the things they talked about!

How They Plot:

Lesley Livingston’s WONDROUS STRANGE series was always a a three-act structure in her mind. But when she got her book deal, it was for a two-book deal. Since then, they’ve asked her to make it a trilogy, which works perfectly for Lesley: she had always imagined it as a trilogy! So for her, it was plotted out right from the beginning.

For Aprilynne Pike, she plotted by series – much like Lesley did. Her WINGS series has always been a close-ended four-book series, and she plotted out the entire series together. It seems she has always had it planned out entirely!

Kim Harrison, on the other hand, talked about how she plots one book at a time; she doesn’t plot out the entire series (such as her series THE HOLLOWS). She also said that THE HOLLOWS is the longest trilogy she has ever written! Her books just had a life of their own, it seems!

Best Job in the World?

Someone during the Q+A session asked all three ladies what it was like having writing as their day job.

Kim Harrison described it perfectly: “It’s a miserable, wonderful, fabulous job”. Her day starts with her doing an hour and a half to two hours doing PR work (maintaining her website, Facebook, blog, etc). And when she starts writing, she writes until 7:00 pm, with only a half hour lunch break. But she loves every minute of it, even though it isn’t an “easy” job.

Aprilynne shared Kim’s sentiments in many ways. For her, being a writer is the best job in the world. But she was quick to remind us all that just because one becomes published, it doesn’t mean it gets easier. For her second book, she whipped it out – and her husband had enough courage to tell her it needed work. But even with so much time devoted to writing and rewriting, being a published author is a dream come true. Having her first book in the hands of so many readers feels like she won the lottery.

For Lesley, being an author gave her the excuse to write down the voices in her head. She loves that people no longer think she’s a lunatic (although I doubt anyone ever thought she was!). Winning awards was one of the most exciting and wonderful things about becoming a published author. She also thinks that it’s wonderful hearing from people who’ve read her books and have her characters living in their heads too. And one of the amazing things about her journey to publication? When she was contracted for her WONDROUS STRANGE series, she had only sent 5 sample chapters with an 8 page synopsis. Which is incredibly rare in fiction, to be taken on with just a proposal!

Giveaway Time!

So while at this event, I was able to pick up signed copies of one of each author’s books. This giveaway is for a signed copy of Kim Harrison’s YA novel ONCE DEAD, TWICE SHY. Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Once Dead, Twice Shy

“My name is Madison Avery, and I’m here to tell you that there’s more out there than you can see, hear, or touch. Because I’m there. Seeing it. Touching it. Living it.”

Madison’s prom was killer—literally. For some reason she’s been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she’s stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn’t know why the dark reaper is after her, but she’s not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison’s ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.

How to enter:
This contest is open internationally. All you need to do is leave a comment to be entered in the contest. For extra entries, you can do any (or all!) of the following:

+1 for following LTWF on Twitter (add your twitter name to your comment so I know you’re following)
+2 for following this blog (RSS feed) – let us know if you do!
+1 for sharing this contest on Twitter – add @LTWF when you share it (again, let us know your twitter account name in the comments!)
+1 for sharing this contest on your blog – just be sure to leave a link/ your twitter name (so that we know who you are, and how you’re sharing it!)

The contest ends at noon EST on Friday, June 11th. The winner will be picked at random, and will be announced on Saturday, June 12th.

Good luck (and be on the lookout for future giveaways)!


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.


Congratulations Sarah!

30 May

Congratulations to Sarah J. Maas, who got married today to her one true love, Josh!

We love you and wish you both a happily ever after!

-The LTWF Ladies

LTWF Special: Glossary of Terms

29 May


Here at LTWF, we use some industry terms that may not be familiar to all. To make things easier for someone who’s just starting out in this publishing business or maybe someone who just wants to brush up on some vocab, we’ve compiled a list of common words. If you have any more you’d like us to define, please say so in the comments!


Acquisitions editor: An editor who can acquire/purchase manuscripts on behalf of their publisher.

Advance: Funds paid to an author for his/her book. An advance is typically broken up in 2 or 3 payments. Payments can be triggered by signing a contract, turning in the completed manuscript, or the book hitting shelves. It is considered an “advance” because it is paid in advance of the book being available/sold in stores, and is paid “against royalties”– meaning that when your book begins to sell copies, those royalties go first toward paying your publisher back for the advance.

Agent: Short for Literary Agent. An agent works on your behalf, submitting your work to the apropriate publishers and negotiating contracts.  Agents typically take a 15% commission on whatever they sell for you, and 20% for international sales.

ARC: Abbreviation for Advance Reading Copy. ARCs are sometimes referred to as Bound Galleys.

At Auction: A term used to describe the sale of a manuscript when multiple publishers become involved in a bidding war.

Backlist: the titles written by an author which are not his/her most recent release– whether they are the previous books in a series or stand alone titles. Having a “strong backlist” means your previous books are still available and selling well.

Bookscout: an independent person utlilized by publishers to find exciting projects.

Copy Editor: An editor whose sole purpose is to fix gramattical, syntax, punctuation, etc. These are the last edits done before final proof reads.

Copy Edits: This is when the author received her manuscript, marked up by the copyeditor, and must approve or reject the changes.

CP Abbreviation for Critique Partner. For more information, check our post here.

Deal: A “deal” refers to the purchase of a manuscript by a publishing house.  The publishing industry generally uses the following euphemisms to describe the advance paid to the author:

Nice Deal – $0-$49k

Very nice deal – $50k-$99k

Good deal – $100k-$250k

Significant deal – $251-$499

Major deal – $500k and up

Denouement (pronounced day-noo-maun): Consists of a series of events that follow the climax, and serves as a conclusion to the story.

Earnout: The term for when a book “earns out” its advance– the royalties have exceeded the original advance, and the author will begin to see more funds.

Editor: a person, typically employed by a publishing house (Unless a freelance editor) who is the initial reader of your work and the one who will purchase it on behalf of the publisher. They will be your point of contact at the publisher, as well as providing you with your revision letter.

Foreign Rights, aka Translation Rights: The right to publish your book in a foreign country or in foreign language. You will receive a seperate advance for each country that purchases rights. HOT books often sell to 10-20+ countries, meaning that the foreign rights purchases can exceed the original advance and be rather lucrative. Other books sell no foreign/translation rights at all.

Frontlist: An author or publisher’s new releases.

Full: Short for ‘full manuscript’.

Genre: A classification of what ‘type’ a book is. For example: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Horror, SciFi, YA, MG, etc.

High Concept: A book in which the concept is easily stated, with a large hook and commercial appeal. IE, Prada & Prejudice is about “A girl who trips in her Prada heels– and lands in Austen Era england.” Jurassic Park is “A theme park with live dinosaurs.”

Hook: The element of your story, typically related to the concept/plot, that will “hook” a reader.

Lead Title: A publishers “big” book for the month or season– the one they are pushing the hardest, often the book they paid the most money for.

Line Edits: The stage of editing after major revisions are complete– typically involving word choice, cutitng a sentence or paragraph, tweaking punctuation, adding clarification in certain spots, etc.

Midlist: A midlist author is an authors whose books sell modestly or reasonably well but do not hit any bestseller lists.

MG: Abbreviation for Middle Grade, which tends to be targeted at 5th through 8th grades.

Movie/Film Option: In which a studio is purchasing the exclusive right to produce your book as a movie. It DOES NOT obligate them to do so, but it does prevent other studios from being able to. Typically renews every 2-3 years, and the author sees money with each renewal, regardless of whether the film is ever made.

MS: Abbreviation for manuscript.

MSS: Abbreviation for manuscripts.

Novella: The definition of a novella varies depending on genre, and can be as low as 10,000 words or as high as 70,000. Famous novella’s are 1984, Of Mice and Men, Fahrenheit 451, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Animal Farm.

Novelette: Shorter than a novella, this is a term for a short piece of prose fiction. Novelette’s are usually around 8,000 to 18,000 words.

Option: A clause in a publishing contract which allows a publisher to have the first right of refusal on your next manuscript. See also: Movie/Film Option

Over the transom: A term often used when referring to unsolicited submissions. “It was submitted over the transom.”

Partial: Short for ‘partial manuscript,’ typically 3 chapters or thirty to fifty pages.

Pitch: A short summary of your story intended to interest an agent or editor.

Preemptive Offer: An offer made by a publisher intended to be enticing enough that the author accepts without allowing the other publishers to consider the material.

Prose: Regular/ Narrative fiction writing (as opposed to poetry/verse or Non-Fiction.)

Query: A term for the letter submitted to agents in order to elicit interest and ultimately an offer of representation. Query letters follow a standard format. Here’s a good starting guide.

Remaindered or Pulped: When a book is stripped of its jacket and destroyed, typically as a result of lackluster sales.

Reserve against returns: A portion of the books sold during any royalty period may be held as a ‘reserve against returns.”  Typically 10-20% (sometimes larger), is held by your publisher in reserve until some time has passed and they are reasonably confident that bookstores will not ship a large quantity of books back ot the publisher.

Royalties: The money that writers make from book sales.  Initially, royalties go toward “earning out” the advance paid to them. Once a writer has earned out, they will begin to receive checks.  Royalty periods typically occur twice per year.

Sell-In: How well a book is stocked by bookstores. A good sell-in means the chains and independents are all stocking your book.

Sell-Through: The success of the book to sell the copies which the bookstores have purchased. A 50% sell-through would mean that 50% of the books shipped to stores were sold to consumers.

Serial Comma: Also known as the “Oxford comma”, a serial comma is a comma used in places that don’t require a comma for grammatical reasons. It is often placed where one would naturally pause (such as before a conjunction).

Slush Pile: The set of unsolicited manuscripts sent directly to the publisher, or to a literary agent. It is the pile of manuscripts or queries that they haven’t yet read.

Speculative Fiction: A genre classification that contains Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror

Subs: short for ‘submissions’

Substantive edits: Editing of  a manuscript in a way that changes more than word choice or punctuation – it looks at the “big picture” rather than the little details. It may involve changing plot lines, revamping characters, etc.

Vanity press: A publisher which is paid to print your book (rather than paying the author.) A vanity press does not typically distribute your work.

WIP: Abbreviation for Work In Progress

YA: Abbreviation for Young Adult. YA encompasses a lot and has fuzzy restrictions. See this helpful post on Wikipedia for more info.

QOTW: Writing Beginnings

28 May

Don’t forget about our Critique Partner Page! Check it out!


This week’s QOTW was inspired by Marina, who asked, “I’m sure all of us agree that the beginning of a story is the hardest part to write. How do you guys approach writing the beginning of the story and what do you find works best for grabbing reader’s interest?”


Beginnings are definitely tricky. Sometimes, the beginning that I originally write doesn’t end up being the beginning I go with. For my YA novel, I knew exactly how I wanted my story to start. It was something about my character, Danae, and her people that was just such an interesting backdrop to get the story going. It’s short, but I like to think it does the trick. For other works, I sometimes found myself unsure how to start it. So I would just start writing my story, and worry about the beginning later. I think what seems to work best for me is visualizing my story; what is interesting about my characters, or my plot? What event sets thing into motion? Knowing that I need to hook my readers right from the beginning (or risk my readers losing interest), it can be a bit daunting. Just try thinking of what sparked your story; what was it that compelled you to write it? Whatever it is intrigued you enough, so perhaps it will intrigue others just as much. If anything, just remember that writing a beginning doesn’t always have to happen at the beginning. Just start writing even if you aren’t sure; at some point, it’ll come to you.

The Writer Working in Publishing


My only real rule for an opening is to start with action, and to create a scene that will fill the reader with the perfect balance of understanding and curiosity. I certainly don’t want to jump so far into the action of a scene that the reader has no idea what is happening, but I do want the reader to have questions. After all, questions keep pages turning. But no one will read very far if they don’t start to find answers, or at least clues, to the questions raised by the opening scene.

I also want to second what Vanessa said about not getting too caught up in the daunting task of creating the perfect opening. Often, when you type the first paragraph of the first draft, you are still sort of feeling around in the dark. Once you’ve written a bit of the first chapter, (or maybe several chapters!) you’ll have a better sense of what the story is really about. You need to have an understanding of your hook, but sometimes the hook becomes clearer as you write. Don’t be afraid to write a very rough opening scene, knowing that you can re-visit it later. If you’re like me, by the time you feel that a manuscript is ready, you will have re-read and re-written chapter one more than any other part of the book!

The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions


Beginnings aren’t the hardest part for me; I even have tons of them cluttering my computer’s memory. I tend to write a beginning I find entertaining and then leave off because I’m not interested in writing the whole story. When I first get an idea, I jot it down somewhere so I don’t forget it. Then, if I’m lucky, it keeps going from there and I find myself writing for pages. That’s when I know I have a story. Other times I write a few paragraphs and leave it. Then later when I’m revising, I worry about whether or not what I’ve written actually works as a beginning or whether I have to write a new one.

I find that I try to establish two things when I start a story: who and where. I want the reader to get sucked in by the characters and wonder about them. If a reader gets invested or interested quickly, they’ll keep reading. I focus on the ‘where’ because I write fantasy and I have to establish my world quickly (but without bogging things down with a brief history and a glossary). I like to start with action too, so that something is happening; hopefully something directly related to the plot that will let me establish my ‘who and where’

The Archeologist Currently Querying


The general advice writers receive on beginnings is, ‘Begin where the story starts,’ but that shouldn’t be taken at face value. When does someone’s story really start? With their birth? With what they had for breakfast? The trick to finding good beginnings is to open it in a place where the action begins, but there are still opportunities to fit in some background information, without overloading the reader. It’s far easier to say what shouldn’t be in a beginning than what should: no unnecessary, dramatic lead-ins, no pages and pages of backstory, no mundane chapter to orient readers to your world, etc. (It really bothers me when the writer starts us off with a chapter covering an entire ordinary day, just to establish characters and their relations to each other).

I’m still a sucker for a dramatic prologue, but only if it’s relevant. Sometimes prologues are necessary to introduce a concept that the life of the main character can’t tell us about. I particularly like it when prologues consist of a legend or fable of the world that will have some impact later in the story. Ultimately the beginning should interest the reader, introduce the plot, and carefully weave in details about the world/characters/backstory in a non-intrusive way so that you can immerse yourself gently, almost without realiziing it.

The Writer Waiting on Submissions


I’ve just started a new historical romance while waiting for the response of a potential agent.I forgot how difficult it was to write the beginning because it’s been almost three years since I started a story from scrap. So I began writing the book accordingly to what would have hooked “me” as a reader. I approached the beginning of the story–as in, the first few chapters–with the mindset that I needed to immediately build up the romantic tension between the hero and heroine. I don’t mean that they will be attracted to each other right away. But something has to be there to make readers crave to read on, to figure out whether or not the couple will end up together. Before, when I used to be active on FP, I learned what kind of first chapter worked best in hooking the reader. I knew that a new reader would come, check out the first few paragraphs, before deciding whether or not to read on. So I always spent painful hours writing and rewriting my first paragraph. Not only should the opening of a story be interesting, but in my opinion, it should also set the mood of your story. Then the closing paragraph, in my experience, is what determines how many reviews you will receive. Leave it at a cliff hanger and people will be leaving fan-crazy threats for you to update SOON or else… But if it’s not a cliff hanger, if your story loses its tension along the way, the readers might not be as eager to read on. So yes. I actually learned a lot from posting my story up on FP.

The Writer Who Got a Full Request


I actually have a really hard time with beginnings. I find them to be more difficult than endings; they’re the most vital part of the story, too, as they’re essentially what decides whether or not a reader bothers with the rest of it, so that pressure doesn’t help at all.

I tend to begin in a spot that allows me to get started on the more interesting stuff right away, then go back and rewrite the beginning to tailor it to the rest. This is the most effective for me because I tend to meander off with ideas I didn’t originally intend when starting the work (I write in chronological order, unlike some writers that go with whatever scene they feel the urge to write at the moment). When I’m finished, I can go back and revise the beginning to catch the reader’s interest and begin setting up the basics for the polished plot.

The Writer Working At A Local Newspaper


Like Jenn, beginnings tend to come easily for me–it’s the middles and endings that I have trouble with! I don’t know how many orphaned beginnings I have laying around. I love setting the scene and introducing characters.

For my most recent WIP, I started the story with a single sentence. I had a title, a first sentence, and a last sentence. That’s all! While I don’t necessarily recommend this kind of super spontaneous writing, I’m putting it out there just so you know that sometimes, a first-draft beginning doesn’t need tons of planning and thought. In fact, the more I think during a first draft (and by “think,” I mean stress and worry), the less I write, and the more stilted and dull the stuff I do write comes out. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about how good your beginning is. You probably haven’t even hit your stride yet, and your story might surprise you with how it ends up. No point in stressing over a beginning that will get overhauled completely in the end anyway, right?

If you’re revising, then you can focus more on crafting the perfect beginning. The first few pages (or even paragraphs!) ought to start bringing up questions in your reader’s mind immediately. Ideally, there should be a conflict, because conflict draws and keeps attention. But of course, it shouldn’t overwhelm or confuse too deeply for too long, or they might put the book down!

Personally, I have an obsession with bringing a story full circle. I love for the end of a book to resonate or reflect the beginning. So if it’s possible, I like to work some of that in, as well. Good luck and happy writing! Really, beginnings are so much fun 😀

The Writer Just About to Query


Do you have trouble writing beginnings?

On Writing Non-Fiction

27 May

by Vanessa Di Gregorio


Non-fiction: some people can’t stand to read it, and others refuse to read anything but it. For some writers, it is too academic and stuffy; while others find it more thrilling to write than fiction. It really all depends on taste. But as Cristina mentioned yesterday, non-fiction isn’t “dry” or “boring”.

Think of it. How many non-fiction books have you read this year? If your answer is none, I suggest the next time you go to the book store, wander away from the fiction section for a moment; you’ll find that the majority of the book store is filled with tons of non-fiction to choose from. Maybe you can look at some memoirs. Like history? Grab a book about your favourite time period and place – maybe Ancient Greece, or Mesopotamia, or the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Perhaps you love art, or Disney movies; or both! There are plenty of “Art of…” books (such as The Art of Up! or The Art of The Princess and the Frog). Maybe you’re planning a wedding and need some advice, or are looking for some new cupcake recipes. The point is, there is something for everyone; which is a reason why so many people often choose non-fiction books for gifts. There are so many genres and topics covered in non-fiction!

So, have any of you ever considered writing non-fiction? I know for the longest time I never even thought of it. To be honest, I began picturing non-fiction as being incredibly academic (which it isn’t, unless you’re specifically writing academic non-fiction) or difficult to write. But I have always enjoyed reading non-fiction. I have always found myself browsing the History or Memoir/Biography or Art or Science sections of the book store. So why hadn’t I thought of writing it?

There seems to be some sort of stigma against non-fiction, especially when it comes to writers. Reading it is one thing, but writing it? Many people just can’t imagine it. So, to help you all find the non-fiction writer lurking in you, I thought I’d give you some basics on writing non-fiction.

It’s All About Love

First – think of something you love. Something that fascinates you and that you are knowledgeable about (and even if you’re not knowledgeable yet, think of something you’d love to learn more about). Are you vegan, and love cooking? And do you love kids? Well, maybe you can write about cooking vegan food for kids. Completely and totally intrigued by real-life pirates? Well, perhaps you could write about some of the most famous (or perhaps the least famous!) ones. I, for one, absolutely adore children’s books. So when it came to thinking up a non-fiction idea, I knew I would write something for children; something that there is always a market for. And something that I love learning more about.

Who’s Your Audience?

Now that you’ve decided that a book on, say, DIY Interior Design is what you want to write, figure out who your main audience is. Are you writing this for children, or for adults? Who would buy this book?

The Book Proposal

Once you’ve figured out what you want to write about, you can go about writing a book proposal. The great thing about these? They help you map out what you’re writing (and with non-fiction, it is much easier to outline than fiction). And with non-fiction, you can almost always get a book deal (or an agent) off of a book proposal! You don’t have to write an entire book to get a deal! So, let’s go through some of the major pieces of information you’ll need for it.

1. Overview:
The overview is your pitch – it tells the editor in brief what your book is all about. Don’t be overly long-winded here; try to keep it as concise as possible. Imagine you are writing the back cover blurb of your book. You’ll have plenty of time to go into detail about your book in a bit, so just try to hook your reader (ie. the editor). You are trying to advertise your book, and say quite simply why this is something people would want to read. What is the one thing that makes it stand out from all the others? Perhaps you’re looking at history in a graphic novel format, or writing a biography that will be illustrated like a comic strip. Whatever your new angle is, be sure to work it!

2. Marketing
The publisher will want to know whether there is a market for the book; so go and do some research. Are there other books out there like this? Have they done well? Or is there absolutely nothing yet on your topic, but something that you are certain people would want to read? Make a strong case, whichever you choose. Comparative and competitive titles are always a good idea to include. Try listing the top three, and mention how your book is similar, yet different. And be sure to know your market (and your target audience) well. Some great things to include are statistics on the size of the market. For example, if you’re writing about eating disorders, you could look at North American statistics; how many young women feel the need to lose weight? On average, how young are girls when they develop eating disorders? You’ll be amazed at some of the information you can find.

3. Author Bio
This is a very important part of your proposal. Do you have a platform? If you’re writing a cheese book, and are a cheese expert, be sure to mention it. When you’re writing your author bio, include any and all information that makes you sound able to sell the book to a significant number of people. How are you an expert on this subject, and what kind of platform do you have? You need to sell yourself as well as the book idea.

4. Chapter Summaries
Along with chapter summaries, be sure to include a table of contents (especially if your book will most likely have one). It is the easiest way to give an editor an overview of the book. Your chapter summaries will be breakdowns of each chapter, so be sure to organize them in a logical way. The editor will be looking to see what information you’re planning on writing, and how you’ll go about writing it. The editor will start getting a sense of what your writing style is like. Perhaps you’ll be looking at Victorian England with a newspaper layout, with titles such as, “THE RIPPER HAS DONE IT AGAIN!” and “HEALTH ISSUES IN THE SLUMS”. You can be as serious or as quirky and funny as you want. Just remember: you need to still convey factual information.

5. Sample Chapters
Your sample chapters should include at least two to three sample chapters. They don’t have to be the first two to three chapters; whatever you’ve written that seems the best and most intriguing should go here. The writing style and tone of the entire book will be reflected in these sample chapters, so be sure to write it the way you’d want it to be published (no pressure, right?). This is your time to shine, and finally show exactly what your book will be like. It’s a reflection of your work, so be sure to polish it up as much as possible. Will your book include images? If so, include them; even if they aren’t the visuals that will end up in the published version. Visuals are a great way to keep someone’s attention, and show that you’ve done your research. Will the book be illustrated? If your vision is that it will be, mention it. If you have fun side bars and margin notes, mention them!

There are other things you can add to your proposal. One thing to remember is that there is no clear-cut outline for writing proposals, so long as you include all the information you need. Don’t make it blah and boring; add some personality to it! After all, you want people to enjoy reading it (as well as your finished book).

So, are any of you aspiring non-fiction writers? While I know that I probably haven’t swayed all of you to join the non-fiction side, I hope that some of you have (or will at least consider it for the future). With so many topics and genres, there is no way you’d find yourself unable to write about something you love.


Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

Experimenting With Different Kinds of Writing

26 May

by Cristina Rose


If you’re anything like the way I’ve always been, you have tunnel vision when it comes to writing. You’re so focused on improving your craft—whether that be fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or drama—that you hone in on that particular form of writing and don’t expand into other territories. But all types of writing are unique, with their own obstacles that need overcoming—and that exploration might be just what you need when you’re hit with writer’s block.

As I said, I was like this up until recently, when I realized that I loved my Poetry class (which I originally dreaded taking, but is required for English majors). I think it’s perfectly normal, too; most fiction writers will tell you that they’re absolutely petrified of poetry, and poets might say the same for fiction. Dramatists and nonfiction writers might have a harder time with the detail put into poetry and fiction, and vice versa. But if you open up to other forms, despite the fear of them high school English might have instilled in you, you’ll notice that each has a lot to offer your writing.

I like to think of caring for my writing the way I care for my skin: when my skin is dry, I use lotion, but if I use the same lotion for too long it gets used to it and doesn’t benefit from it anymore. Even just a day or two of using a different lotion can make a difference, and it’s the same with my writing: even just reading some poetry or drama can inspire my fiction writing in ways that obsessing over it with tired eyes won’t.

I’m going to delve briefly into each of the major forms, touching upon a few of their sub-forms, to give you an idea of how each can help you with your writing of choice. I’ll be approaching each from the perspective of a fiction writer, but I’ll try to be as objective as possible so as to benefit everybody. Just remember that this experimentation, if you decide to do it, is simply a fun exercise; there’s no pressure to be published because it isn’t your typical medium (which is yet another way to spur great writing—just doing it for fun), but it could spark a new talent you haven’t realized you had yet!


I know Savannah already did a wonderful job of assuaging your fears of poetry, so I won’t spend too much time here. 😉 But the wonderful thing about poetry is that it’s pure imagery: something writers of fiction, drama, and nonfiction often struggle with. As my fellow contributors have mentioned, the number one rule of writing is “Show, don’t tell,” which can be incredibly hard in any of the forms. Poetry is great practice for creating effective images, similes, and metaphors that are necessary in any kind of writing.

Pay attention to any powerful piece of writing and you’ll notice it uses imagery. Plato had his cave, Poe used the raven, Tennessee Williams put Stanley on his knees in his only moment of weakness. One of my favorite masters of the image is William Carlos Williams, who penned the famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow”:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

Though this type of poetry might not be for everyone, you can see my point: the entire poem is one image. Though Williams does essentially tell the audience that the wheelbarrow (which is a stand-in for the small things in life) is important, he says only enough to answer the question “so what?” and accomplishes the rest with imagery.

This is another important technique poetry can teach us. Because even some of the longest poetry is so condensed, it’s important to use only the most necessary and effective words and images. Wordiness is almost unforgivable in poetry (unless it is intentionally wordy to achieve a certain outcome), and one syllable can make a huge difference in the work’s flow.

Poetry is also a great way for writers to enter into conversation with one another. Many great poems were written with another work in mind, or directly in response to a poem or its author. Robert Frost, another great poet, wrote in his work “The Prerequisites” in 1954: “A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written … The thing is to get among the poems where they hold each other apart in their places as the stars do.”

Even in his prose, he incorporates beautiful imagery. And he’s right; even poetry—especially poetry—is a communicative form of writing that can teach a writer to learn from and build off of other works. After all, communication is what the written word is for.


As Vanessa said in her “Dialogue Woes – Writing Tips and Tricks” article, Drama is the way to go when having trouble with dialogue. Dialogue is essential to fiction in particular to break up long blocks of description and keep the reader’s attention. We are bombarded with it in our daily lives—television, everyday conversation, song lyrics (which are becoming more rhetorical rather than poetic, sounding almost like conversation and storytelling), etc—yet it can be one of the hardest things to write. Drama is made up entirely of dialogue with a peppering of stage directions here and there, so it’s a great thing to read or attempt to write when your characters are beginning to sound stiff and artificial.

Take this excerpt from my favorite piece of drama, for example, a ten minute play by Mary Miller called “Ferris Wheel.” A man and a woman meet on a Ferris Wheel, each riding alone; they are caught on the ride, which seems to have stopped out of nowhere, and in the midst of the woman’s panicking over her fear of heights, the man is struggling through his attempt to quit smoking:

(He unconsciously starts moving his leg and tapping his foot)

Dorie: (without looking down) What are you doing?!

John: Nothing.

Dorie: You’re moving.

John: I’m not moving.

Dorie: You’re twitching.

John: Twitching?

Dorie: (pointing down/looking up) Your leg. It’s going like a house of fire. Are you nervous? … Or is this some sort of warning signal before you break into a full uncontrollable fit?

John: I am not breaking into a fit!

This is a very simple conversation; it’s one of the shorter ones in the play. The dialog is fun, fast, and interesting—yet it’s believable. It’s a lot more believable than some of the stiff conversation I’ve written in the past, before learning from works like this. You can see how Miller also teaches us to create mood when there isn’t any “he said fearfully” attached to the dialogue. The conversation between Dorie and John is tense. You don’t have to be told that to feel it.

The stage directions are important, too—notice Dorie doesn’t look down when John begins moving his foot. That tells you a lot more about her fear than if she were to say “I’m afraid of heights.”


Aside from research, it’s really helpful to read (and write) some nonfiction. Those who write nonfiction—biographies, journalism, etc—have to be precise with facts and know how much or how little detail to use. It can help any creative work to experiment with this; as I said above, wordiness is the enemy, and not just with poetry. Though some writers do well with wordiness or long, winding sentences (Faulkner, anyone?), the general rule is to be as concise as possible to avoid losing or boring your reader. Stephen King goes as far as to argue in his book On Writing that adverbs are entirely useless and should be avoided. Notice, however, I have a particularly difficult time with this. 😉 Everyone has their tastes.

A lot of creative writers will stray away from nonfiction because they feel it isn’t creative or see it as “dry” writing. But if a writer knows what he or she is doing, and is really passionate about the subject matter, it should be anything but boring. Take this passage from New York By Gas-Light by George G. Foster, a (supposedly) nonfiction account of New York after dark in the 1850s:

“Here are two ladies approaching us, magnificently attired, with their large arms and voluptuous bosoms half naked, and their bright eyes looking invitation at every passerby. Their complexions are pure white and red, and their dresses are of the most expensive material, and an ultra fashionable make. Diamonds and bracelets flash from their bosoms and bare arms, and heavily-wrought India shawls, of that gorgeous scarlet whose beamy hue intoxicates the eye, hang carelessly from their superb shoulders, almost trailing on the walk. But for their large feet and vulgar hands, they would be taken for queens or princesses, if such things were ever seen among us. They walk with a free and sweeping gait, and shuffle their feet upon the flag-stones with a noise that sets your teeth sharply on edge. As they pass, they look hard at you, and exclaim familiarly,

‘How do you do, my dear? Come, won’t you go home with me?’”

That’s storytelling. That’s taking a real event and putting it into words that spark the readers’ senses and place them in the middle of the action. This passage is bursting with creativity and skill that a lot of fiction writers, poets, and dramatists lack in their works. And while it might not be the bare definition of concise, it still offers only enough to achieve that effect. Take any detail out, and the picture isn’t the same. That’s good writing.


For those of you who don’t write fiction, picking up a novel or attempting a short story can be helpful. Short stories are harder than they look; it takes a lot of discipline and practice to tell a full story in a limited number of pages. Novels take a tremendous amount of work, too, from characterization to plotting to creating a sound beginning and end.

There are plenty of fun exercises to try with fiction: if you’re a poet, try writing a poem inspired by a piece of fiction that inspires you (I have a poem titled “Lolita”, for example, that does a sort of reimagining of the novel). If you’re a dramatist, take a short story or a scene from a novel and try to condense it into dialog and stage direction. These are both pretty difficult to execute given the differences among the forms. In either exercise, you might have to twist the facts a bit, which is perfectly fine for creative writing—that’s how inspiration strikes, and when it does, you have to listen to it. There have been plenty of times when I tried to write on a particular subject or memory and got carried away into something totally fabricated. But if you’re working on a nonfiction account of the piece, obviously, the challenge will be to avoid that.

If anything, experimentation is a great way to tempt your mind to get creative again when you’ve overworked it in one area. Sometimes reading or attempting to write something you’re uninterested in or a bit bored by helps you crave that creative process again. I work at a weekly newspaper, for example, and while I enjoy the writing and have been told I’m good at it, sometimes that type of fact-based nonfiction writing gets me itching to return to my WIP. I can be working on anywhere from one to three articles per workday depending on their length (amongst other clerical duties), which means I have to be fast and efficient when writing them. This means that, when it comes to a deadline, sometimes it’s quantity over quality—but that’s the kind of thing that has me running for some fiction or poetry as soon as I get a chance.

Finally, if all else fails to convince you to try something new—if you never plan on opening a book of poetry in your life—let this be the one short piece of verse you remember:

“Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:

“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”

-Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella (1591)


Cristina Rose has recently earned a fixed position at her internship as a reporter for a local newspaper. She is finishing up her second semester of her Sophomore year at her college and plans to tackle a long list of reading and writing goals as soon as the summer starts. You can read about her on her blog and follow her on twitter.

Birthday Reflections

25 May

by Savannah J. Foley


Today I turn 21 years old.

18 is nice, but in the United States, 21 marks the age when you’re really considered a grown-up. When you’re 21 you can go anywhere uninhibited, and your driver’s license transforms into a free pass to all those ‘adult’ places you’ve never been before.

For me, 21 also marks the end of an era. It splices my life in two; the time before and after technical adulthood. Am I still a relatively young writer? Yes. But at 21 I feel as if I’ve moved beyond the age where my accomplishments are impressive.

When I was younger I swore I would be published while I was still a teenager. To me, attaining that goal would prove something about me; that I was more talented, smarter, better prepared, and most importantly, a better writer than those older than me.

I’d always been on the forefront of accomplishments for my age group: I walked at 9 months old, spoke in complete sentences before age 2, and finished my first book at sixteen. I had a worshipful following on Fictionpress. In school I was always taller, faster, sharper, and got better grades on my essays than most everyone around me. It was only natural that I would get an agent and be published before 20.

I am now ashamed of this arrogance. My self-worth was defined by my accomplishments, not my kindness, compassion, or loyalty. My arrogance blinded me, and I did not realize that my manuscript was barely ready for an agent. In my ignorance I didn’t know that publishing takes years of hard work and endurance. When I finally signed with my agent at 19 I was forced to confront the fact that I would NOT be published before 20. I would not be a prodigy teen writer.

When I tell people how old I am, they are always amazed, because I appear so much older. I have a great job as an HR Manager, I own a house, I have an agent, and until recently I was engaged to be married. I used my age as a tool to instantly make people impressed, to make me feel good about myself. But I feel that as I get older this tool becomes less effective. One day I’ll be just another grown woman with a list of accomplishments under her belt, no different from anyone else.

As I got closer to my birthday I had to confront the fact that soon it wouldn’t be good enough that I’ve merely written 5 novels. I’ll have to have written 5 GREAT novels. I’ll have to prove that I’m an excellent reviser, that I can work on deadline, that I can appeal to the masses and successfully promote my books. And my age won’t have a thing to do with all that.

Am I a good friend? Am I a good girlfriend/fiancé/wife? Do I do the right thing, even though it’s hard? Do I work even though I want to be lazy? Do I keep a positive outlook even though I want to curl into a ball and despair?

These are the things that are important now, not a list of checkmarks with an age attached to it. Quality, not quantity, is what I need to be concerned with.

Being here at Let The Words Flow has taught me so much about publishing and writing, but it’s also taught me something more important than facts and technique: humility. In this group, I’m not the only one who started writing young. I’m not the first to get an agent, or a publishing deal. And in the face of losing the trinkets I clutched to me to prove my worth, I had to realize the truth: I am valuable for more than my ‘accomplishments’ at my young age. I am valuable as a person, and a friend; for what is inside my heart and not always what I do with my hands.

LTWF has also taught me that we all have different stages of ‘ready.’ Some people are ready at 16 to be published. Some people at 20, others at 40, and still others at 80. Life works out when it’s right for you, and age doesn’t have any effect on your value.

I’ve learned so much, and I know that there is so much more to discover. I will only get better with time. 21 does not represent a closed door, but just another milestone. And today I’m going to celebrate making it this far, and be glad to enter into a world where finally everything is possible. The journey has only just begun.


Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

Questions to Ask Your Agent

24 May

mmm chaiI’m currently going through the delightful processes of finding an agent, so I thought it was about time plan for the next step: what to do if an agent offers representation. I know that day is probably a long way away, but I also like to be prepared. So, I asked the agented ladies here at LTWF what questions they asked (or wished they had asked) their agents when they got that first call. I did some poking around the internet too, in hopes of discovering some more questions to ask a prospective agent. And boy did I find them all over the place! I wouldn’t have even thought of most of these myself, which is why I’m devoting this whole post to the topic. Finding and accepting the right agent is a major step and not something to jump into lightly, so make sure you know enough to make an informed decision!

I’m not saying you should ask all of the questions I have listed, or only these questions. And I wouldn’t even dream of trying to memorize them. I plan on having a separate word document on my desktop (easy to find for the panicked) that I can read off (because my brain will shut down and I will probably be incoherent/in disbelief).


-How much work do they think your book needs? And what kind of revisions?
-Are they an editorial agent that will be involved in the editing process?
-How involved do they want to be in the process; do they want to see each draft or only final ones?
-Will the manuscript be ready for submissions soon?


-Which houses/editors do they have in mind?
-How long do they give editors before giving them a nudge?
-Do they do big batches or small ones for each round?
-Do they have a game plan for selling your book?

Communication (came up a lot and I can see how it’s crucial for you and your agent to be on the same page)

-What’s their response time, whether for emails, snail mail or calls? (If it takes a while for them to respond it’s good to know in advance so you don’t have to worry that they’ve forgotten you.)
-How often do they get in touch with clients? (Some agents will check in every week, some will only check in when there’s news. If you are a bit nervous starting out, you’ll probably want occasional check ins just to reassure you that your agent remembers you.)
-What’s the best way to contact them?


-Do they want to help you build a carer/brand or do they want to work with you on a book by book basis?
-Do they have a vision for your career? (Do you have your own vision and do these match?)
-Do they represent all the genres that you think you are likely to write in? (For instance, I need someone who does more than children’s/MG if I have a career agent because the other book I’ve written is YA fantasy.)


-Will they explain it to you? All the tiny little details? (If you have questions after reading it)
-Do their answers satisfy your concerns/questions?
-Will they explain the publisher’s contract in all its little details?

The Agent

-Does the agent ‘get’ your book? Do you get the feeling that they understand what you’re trying to do with it?
-Why does the agent want to represent you? Do they love your book? Are they excited?
-What have they sold that’s similar to your work? What have they sold in general and recently?
-How many clients do they have?
-Can you speak with their other clients?

Questions I stole from other sites

Casey McCormick’s incredibly helpful/detailed post on what to ask:

-Will I be working solely with you, or will there be times I’ll work with an associate or assistant? (eg. Do they have the interns do some of the revisions?)
-Are you confident you have enough time and energy to add another client to your roster? If it’s not already full, how many clients do you wish to have on your list eventually?
-What happens if you can’t sell this manuscript?
-What if you don’t like my future projects and ideas?
-Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre?
-Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in? Are you willing to share the rejections with me? (If you want to see them)
-What are your commission rates? Are they the standard 15% domestic and 20% foreign/film?
-What is your procedure for processing and disbursing client funds?
-How soon will I receive my share when payments are received? (Typically publishers pay agents and then the agent pays the client)

Rachelle Gardner also has a detailed list:

-Does the agent charge for mailing? Copies? Faxes? Phone calls? Any other fees?

Ginger Clark’s guest post on Nathan Bransford’s blog gives an agent’s perspective on offering representation and what she thinks clients should do:

Check out those links and make your own list! Let what’s important to you guide what you want to ask. Remember to research the agents beforehand so you don’t have to ask them questions they answer on their websites.

And feel free to share any questions I haven’t included!


Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of Priscilla the Evil along with several short stories and another novel on Fictionpress. She is starting grad school in the fall and until then is spending her time revising, querying agents, and doing some archaeology. You can visit her blog here and follow her on twitter here.

Grab Bag: This Week’s Links

22 May


This week we announced our Critique Partners Page!

Teach Thyself [To Write]

Chinese Rip Offs of Harry Potter

Sage Advice from Alex Bracken

When to Shelve Your Manuscript

Gail Carson Levine Talks about Coming Up With Titles

Wordle – The image below is a Wordle of LTWF! (Click to see bigger!)


Finally, we loved this excuse for being on the internet!


What fun links have YOU come across this week?

QOTW: Preferred Genre

21 May

We announced our Critique Partner Page yesterday! Check it out!


This week’s QOTW was inspired by Kelly, who asked, “What type of genre can you absolutely NOT write? E.g. if you were a fantasy writer, would you find yourself unable to write super-depressing stories?”


My favorite genre to write is YA.  I’ve taken a stab at both realistic YA fiction and sci-fi YA fiction, and I enjoyed working on both. To me, teenagers are the ideal audience because their lives are opening up to so many new things.  I admire the way that young people are so receptive to new ideas – new love, new adventures – and most of them haven’t become jaded to the world yet.  I’ve always loved the company of teenagers (I’ve been a mentor to high schoolers for about twelve years) so it only makes sense for me to write about them.

The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions


I love writing in YA (especially YA fantasy) because it’s a genre that is always changing, and always pushing the envelope. When you’re a teenager, you’re going through a lot of changes: you’re developing mature friendships, you’re getting used to your new/adult body, and you’re taking your first steps into a much larger world. This automatically adds tension to any plot: fighting a dragon is one thing, but fighting a dragon while your hormones are raging is WAY more interesting–and fun to write! Plus, teenagers aren’t yet set in their ways/behavior/patterns–there is a lot more room for character growth.

I write fantasy because…well, just because it’s what I love, and when I lie awake at night and dream up new characters and plots, new worlds always come with them. I love that fantasy gives me the freedom to create worlds of my own making, to rewrite the rules, to invent histories. There are no limits in fantasy.

The Writer with her First Book Deal


I realized recently that most of my novels can be covered under the umbrella of ‘Speculative Fiction’, which includes fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I prefer to think of Speculative Fiction as the genre of ‘what if?’ What if women ruled the world (ANTEBELLUM). What if butterflies could haunt a child? (GO LOOK THERE). What if people had to erect force fields in order to live without radiation (A CLEAR AND BEAUTIFUL LIE)?

I’m a ‘what if’ thinker, and I’m drawn to stories that help me answer that open-ended question. I’m not attracted to stories that take place in our day and age because I live in the here and now, and in my mental life I want to visit somewhere very different from here.

Additionally, I prefer to write for adults because there are fewer restrictions on the content I can include. But also when I was younger I read more adult than YA, especially autobiographies, and I absorbed the wisdom of older, experienced people. I guess I’ve always had a pretty firm grasp on who I am as a person, and sometimes I get frustrated with characters still learning best practices (don’t gossip about your friends, don’t lie to your loved ones, don’t hide things to protect someone, etc.). I prefer to work with characters who have already learned all that 🙂

The Writer Waiting on Submissions


I write more YA, or, more specifically, YA romance. I just can’t write something that isn’t a love story in some way. Maybe that’s why I love Taylor Swift songs, ha. She seems as fascinated by love as I am. 🙂

I have always WANTED to write a killer suspense, but I dont think I’d be any good at weaving in the clues so that they’re subtle, but still can be unraveled. I’m not creative enough. And I dont think I’ll ever write an epic fantasy because my brain just doesn’t go there. I’d be like, “there was a ring! and a dragon! and an epic quest!” I have no creativity for that.

The Literary Agent and Writer with Multiple Book Deals


When I first really started writing, I was big into Romance because I was a huge Nicholas Sparks fan. But I slowly realized just how difficult it is to write, and decided I’d rather romance be an element in my stories rather than the main genre. Most of my stories are Adult, but I like to dabble in Young Adult as well; as for specific genres, I’m mostly drawn to fantasy, horror, and psychological thrillers. I’ve always been interested in psychology, and really enjoy picking apart a character’s psyche.

My favorite novel is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which has greatly inspired a lot of my writing. The narrator is incredibly unreliable, sarcastic, and absolutely insane (despite his claims to the opposite); he also flip-flops between clever and foolish, making a total mess of himself before the reader. While I love the idea for my current WIP, I feel like something’s missing from it, and I think that could be the psychological struggle. It’s present, but I don’t focus on it enough for my tastes, which makes the characters incredibly flat for me.

Horror is one of my favorite genres because psychology plays so heavily into it. Actually, one of my guilty pleasures when I’m active on Fiction Press is to scroll through the M-Rated horror stories and spend all day looking for one that captivates me. I really hope to write an awesome horror story one day, but I’d want it to be my masterpiece, and I’m in no way ready for that yet!

The Writer Working At A Local Newspaper


I love to write in the fantasy and historical genres. These also happen to be genres that I especially enjoy reading! Fantasy is by far my favourite, but YA fantasy has always been the more attractive; which might be why my current WIP is in this genre. I am also planning on writing an adult historical fiction novel. So I wouldn’t say that as a writer, I limit myself; but I do like to stick with what I myself am attracted to. In both fantasy and historical fiction, there is a great deal of world building; in historical, you need to build a world that has existed, and portray it as accurately as possible. In fantasy, you need to create a world that is just as complex as a historical one. Something about creating worlds that are believable in both genres really appeals to me. And that’s probably why I love to write them.

The Writer Making Her Way Into Publishing


To be honest, when I being writing a story, I give little to no thought as to what genre it falls into. I simply have too much else to think about. The bad thing about this is that after the story is done and I need to categorize it, I falter. Is this fantasy? Science fiction? It’s not exactly romance, but… and so on.

What I do know is that everything I’ve written so far falls under YA. Again, this isn’t exactly something I decided one day–it’s just how the story comes out. So it’s very possible that one day, I’ll write a book and realize that it should go under Adult, instead. But in the mean time, I’m very happy to call myself a YA writer. As I was telling someone the other day, the teenaged years are so special and unique. It’s such a time of growth and discovery. There’s the emergence of real maturity, but at the same time, there’s innocence. As a whole (and despite what many of them may think) most teens are not completely jaded.

As far as genre genre goes, I can’t think of anything I’d never write, because I write what I like to read, and I’ll read just about everything. Epic fantasy and pure romance are the least likely to ever come out of my pen. I like to write about relationships and personal growth–things that I think get lost sometimes in epic fantasy stories when there are fifty characters and they fly across the continent. As for romance… I guess I’ve just never touched it, though I think that’s changed lately.

The Writer Just About to Query


What genre do YOU prefer to write in?