Archive | July, 2010

Agent Interview: Naomi Hackenberg

22 Jul

As a blog fiercely dedicated to helping readers understand the inner-workings of the publishing industry, we thought it might be fun to start a new series in which we interviewed literary agents we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some of us are signed, and some have interned with agencies, and we felt that the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through these experiences should be shared with our readership as well. As gatekeepers to the industry, agents play a vital role in the road to publication. Each agent and agency does things differently, so hopefully these interviews will help you all understand what they do a little bit better, and what makes life in this industry so special! And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find an agent who could be the perfect fit for that novel you’re writing!



Introducing Naomi Hackenberg
of the Elaine P. English Literary Agency

Naomi was interviewed by one of the Elaine P. English interns, LTWF contributor Sammy Bina

LTWF: How did you come to work for Elaine P. English?

Naomi: I was moving back to D.C. after grad school and I knew I wanted to get a job in a literary agency; Elaine was simultaneously looking for a new assistant; and the rest, as they say, is history.

LTWF: When did you know you wanted to get into publishing? I know you recently became an agent yourself – how did that happen?

Naomi: When I finished undergrad, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I basically took the first job that came along (which was NOT in the publishing industry). After I worked for a while, I realized that I wanted to be in publishing, so I went to grad school to transition into the industry. While I was in grad school, I had an internship with a literary agency in Chicago. I loved reading query letters and submissions and observing that intersection of the industry–dealing with authors, editors, rights, etc. When I finished the internship, I knew that I wanted to get a job in an agency. I’ve been assisting Elaine with her projects and selling foreign rights for the agency for almost two years.  I’m still doing all that, but it’s been my goal since I came to the agency to represent my own projects as well, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do that.

LTWF: What is it about YA that made you want to represent it? Do you think you’d ever consider representing more than just YA?

Naomi: I think the YA market inspires authors to write with unfettered imagination, and I’m continually impressed by the characters YA authors create; the questions YA authors ask; and the worlds they build.

Although I am only accepting unsolicited queries for YA and MG fiction, I do currently represent authors who write adult, young adult and middle grade fiction, and I anticipate that I’ll continue to expand representation in the future.

LTWF: What about your current clients made you want to sign them?

Naomi: They all have protagonists with whom I fell in love and hooks/ideas/premises that I feel are new/unique to the market, and they are all books that I want, passionately, to sell.

LTWF: Finish this sentence: “I would love to see more…”

Naomi: …funny books, YA mysteries, and dystopian fiction.

LTWF: What’s currently at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Naomi: My To Be Read pile is SO BIG and what’s on top is constantly changing. I’m currently in the middle of SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson. Other titles that I hope bubble up to the top of the pile soon are: GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray; THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson; THE SINGER’S GUN by Emily St. Mandel; and ANNA KARANENINA by Leo Tolstoy (ok, fine: the latter’s primarily on the top of my To Be Read pile in my dreams–I’m majorly short in my classics reading and I’d like to catch up on it, but it’s hard to get those books to the top of the list).

LTWF: And now, for a non-publishy question! What do you like to do when you’re not being an agent?

Naomi: I love to read (of course), go to Nationals games, and occasionally cook elaborate meals.

Thanks for having me!


You can query Naomi via email at, or find her on twitter!


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her dystopian romance, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.


You can do better than that.

21 Jul

by Biljana Likic


Take this article with a grain of salt.

He drags her behind a heavy table. It isn’t perfect, but at least it would provide some protection. He checks his gun and he is down to his last round. This would not be enough to kill Noir. Nothing would be enough to kill Noir. The target on Jack’s back would finally be met, and the notoriously heartless man would have nothing standing between himself and the destruction of the world.

“Carol,” he says, grasping her face. “Look at me.”

She snaps her fearful eyes up, shock leaving them bone dry and adrenaline reddening her cheeks.

“We’re good as dead,” he says.

With a click, Jack cocks his pistol.

“I have one shot left. Enough to distract.”


“You have to run.”

Leaning his forehead against hers, he rests for a moment, eyes closed, listening to Noir’s sinister approaching footsteps.

“I can’t be without you,” she gasps, hand rising to clutch his at her cheek.

“You can.”

He crushes his lips to hers, drawing courage from the stolen kiss, and then he shoves her hard down the wide laundry chute. He blocks out her scream of terror and outrage.

She was always too stubborn for her own good.

Noir’s footsteps slow.

“I can hear you trembling.”

Sure enough, his hand is tapping the gun against the table with the force of its tremors. He swallows, lifting himself up slowly, planting his feet firmly beneath him as he stands to face his mortal enemy. Noir, the vilest man to ever live. Noir, whose face is stretching into an evil grin even as Jack’s shaking hand rises, cold, deadly metal heavy in his grip.

“Do you mean to shoot me?” Noir asks, amused.

Jack pulls the trigger. The gun clicks.

It’s a dud.

His face crumples. As a last resort, he throws the gun pathetically at the now chuckling Noir, shoulders dropping in pitiful defeat when it is swatted aside like a bug.

“It’s too bad, really,” Noir says, and the last thing Jack thinks when he hears Noir’s pistol go off is that he will never hold Carol again.

His breath is knocked out of him, his knees collapse to the ground, and he lies there heavy and beaten.

But something isn’t right.

He feels no pain other than from the impact with the floor. There is a heavy weight on his legs. Would his death be so immediate that hurt was mercifully taken away?

No. Because then he hears it.


She is screaming, screaming at Noir to leave him alone. She crawled her way back up to try to save him and threw him down before the bullet could hit home. She is sobbing heavily, draping her body over his, and all Jack can think is Stupid girl, this is why I love you so much.

“Don’t kill him!” she cries. “I love him!”

Silence. Jack forces his eyes open to look at Noir. He is shocked to see him gazing at the fallen couple with sorrow and remorse.

“What affection,” he says, “that you would risk your life after he saved it.”

He lowers his gun.

“I see there is still humanity in this world,” he says. “Your devotion has struck evil out of me. Your love has truly moved me to the path of light.”

Jack stands, pulling Carol with him. He puts one arm around her, and another, hesitant at first, but then strong, around Noir.

“Let’s just go home.”

Arm in arm, they leave the building, on the road to becoming life-long friends.

The world is safe.

The end.

Now doesn’t that just piss you off?

Imagine: an amazing book; fantastic action; a budding romance between two strong people, with the two strong names of Carol and Jack; an evil man, Noir, so called because his soul is black as night; a terrifying plot to destroy the world which is executed in such a way that nobody would dream of calling it cheesy or old.

And then you get an ending like that.

This, my friends, is what we call Deus ex machina: God from the machine. It is a sudden, unexpected, totally ludicrous, eye-rollingly, glaringly, unforgivably cheap way of resolving a conflict, where the thing causing you problems is suddenly not causing you problems because of a contrived turn of events. It is from the wise words of Horace’s Ars Poetica, (literally Art of Poetry,) where he tells poets to never, ever, fall so low as to use a god from the machine to solve problems.

What he’s talking about goes way back to Greek tragedies, where during the play actors playing gods would be lowered onto the stage with a crane or appear from below with the use of a riser and a trap door to solve all the difficulties those silly little mortals had gotten themselves into. The phrase actually refers to this mechanical manipulation, or the making of something with one’s hands. So a better way of translating deus ex machina is “God that we make” or “God from our hands.”

So here’s the lesson of this article:

Don’t do it.

A sad ending where Jack dies is better than a bullshit ending where an evil, heartless, unsalvageable man, who never exhibited any kind of change of heart when he saw all the other couples who loved each other killed before his eyes, is suddenly saved. If your plot is such that you can’t think of a way to end it happily, don’t end it happily.

Believe me, it’ll feel wrong if you take something like the story of Jack and Carol and try to turn it into fluffy lesson that love conquers all. Because frankly, it doesn’t, especially not villains like Noir. Keep the ending true to the story because otherwise readers will notice that you didn’t listen to the voice that said “Kill him!” but rather to the voice that said “That’s not marketable” or “I don’t want a sad ending” or “But he’s hot”.

If you didn’t want a sad ending, you should’ve thought of that before you got to this point.

Here’s another important point I’d like to stress.

Deus ex machina isn’t only restricted to getting happy endings. There are people that are the opposite of those who want happy endings: the ones that want the shock value of death and destruction.


Please don’t kill the main character in the end just because you want to shock the reader.

If the story is well constructed, and you have a good reason to kill them, then by all means, go ahead.

But before you do, ask yourself:

Is he dead because he slipped on a puddle of water and cracked his head on the corner of the counter in a cruel twist of irony for all the people he’s ever wronged?

Or is he dead because him living is inconvenient to your shocker ending so you decide that a sudden invasion of giant squids takes him out with their mutant gills that can breathe air and tentacles that have morphed into three-foot-long knives because of a previously unheard of influx of radioactive solar flares?

Make your ending suit you story. A forced ending will sound as contrived as it probably is. A lazy ending will leave readers unsatisfied. A writer-selfish ending will have people confused and questioning your intelligence.


Deus ex machina.



Challenge! Because I always seem to have these in my articles.

Come up with your own examples of deus ex machina. Let’s get our funny going.


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She just graduated high school and is on her way to university where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here.

Book Recommendation and Giveaway: PARANORMALCY

20 Jul


Sarah J. Maas


Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: August 31, 2010

Summary (from

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


It’s not every day that I get SUPER, UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED about upcoming books. But from the moment I saw the cover for Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, I got that “MUST READ NOW” feeling. And when I received an ARC of it last week, I pretty much died. No joke, I was actually dead to the world. I curled up on the couch and didn’t stop reading until 2:30 AM. I didn’t watch TV, answer emails, take phone calls, or pay attention to my poor hubby–I just Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

It was love at first paragraph, and Evie stole my heart when she described her blinged-out pink taser (nicknamed Tasey). I rarely get attached to heroines the way I got attached to Evie–she’s the perfect blend of sass, smarts, and sensitivity, and I found myself laughing and crying along with her.

And the love interest–Lend! Can I say how HOT he is? I mean, he’s a freaking shapeshifter, which is pretty awesome, but more than that he’s just a nice, GOOD guy. He’s not one of those brooding, menacing, “I love you, but I want to kill you” dudes that pop up all too often in YA, but rather a kind, smart, and funny guy. I adore books where the romantic interest is an actual good guy (but maybe that’s just because I married one). In a desert of stalker-esque, sparkling, and all-around emo love interests, Lend is an oasis.

In a nutshell, PARANORMALCY is a combination of BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, HELLBOY, and all that’s best in YA paranormal lit. I haven’t read something this delightful in a while–I kinda want to cuddle my ARC right now. I could definitely come up with ten more paragraphs regarding WHY it’s so awesome, but…I think you already get the point. Plus, I’m still in that post-reading “!!!!” phase where I can’t formulate coherent thoughts (even a few days later).

I honestly can’t wait until PARANORMALCY hits shelves, because I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a huge hit–and because I want all my friends to read it ASAP! August 31st cannot come soon enough!

Pre-Order it. NOW. You won’t regret it.

BUT just in case you can’t wait until August 31st, we’re hosting a giveaway of our ARC! That’s right–you can have a copy of PARANORMALCY before it even hits shelves!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address AND answer this question:

Evie comes across a lot of fascinating and terrifying creatures in PARANORMALCY–if you could be any paranormal/mythological creature (vampire, werewolf, mermaid, etc.), what would you be and why?

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)
+1 for being a fan on Facebook
+3 for following this blog – (if you don’t, just subscribe to us with your email!)
+1 for sharing this contest on Twitter – (please provide the link of your tweet in the comments)
+2 for sharing this contest on your blog – just be sure to leave a link (so that we know who you are, and how you’re sharing it!)

There are 9 entries in total. Don’t forget adding your email so that we can contact you! (Also, please note that this contest is NOT open internationally–US and Canadian residents only, please)

The contest ends at noon EST on Friday, August 6th. The winner will be picked using, and will be announced on Saturday, August 7th. Good luck!!!


ARC Received From Publisher


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

Scene Craft

19 Jul

Recently, I’ve been thinking about scene craft. When I was just getting started writing, years and years ago, I was actually afraid of not getting enough words. I wrote everything out as long as I could, struggling to achieve as many pages as possible. Now, it’s quite the opposite! I want my story to be concise–all lean muscle and no fat.

But there’s so much to include in every story–how does one fit it all? By making every scene serve double, triple, or even quadruple duty! Every scene in your story should, ideally, accomplish as many of the following as possible:

1. Further the plot: This is the most obvious, I’d say. If you have a scene that isn’t furthering the plot, you should probably question its existence. This is especially true in commercial fiction. If you’re writing literary fiction, I suppose you have a bit more leeway with this, but in that case, your scenes better serve to…

2. Further character development: Static characters are one dimensional and not much fun–static relationships between characters even less so. Every scene should either be revealing more about a character or showing how he is changing, however little. Are the story’s events making him stronger? Weaker? More angry? Happier? As far as character relations go, the question is: are they becoming closer? Is one trusting the other more or less? Are tensions developing or dissolving?

3. Answering or raising questions: In the beginning, the focus will obviously be on raising questions, and toward the end, the opposite will be true.

4. Cultivating setting: This is essential in fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc–anything that isn’t set in anytown, anyplace, Earth. Info dumps on culture, food, and landscape are not a good idea. Weave these facts into every scene, a little at a time.

Try to keep these four things in the back of your mind as you craft each scene. Of course, not every bit of your story will be able to accomplish all four, but I challenge you to try! You might find your story stronger than ever. In fact, I’m asking everyone who reads this to write a scene bearing these four things in mind. If you’d like, post it on your own blog and add a link to it below! I promise to check it out 🙂 If you don’t have a blog or don’t want to post it there, just put it in the comments!

If you want an example of a great scene, I’d recommend reading pg 10-11 (in my edition, anyway) of ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card. I don’t want to type it all out (that’s probably copyright infringement…), but the bit where Ender interacts with Val and Peter is brilliant. In the space of two pages, it sets up the dynamic between the siblings, introduces the idea of “Buggers,” reveals a ton about all three children’s personalities, and makes the reader wonder about the importance of Ender’s monitor. Really, it’s fantastic. Great, great scene. Great, great book.

Now, go write your scenes! I promise I’m doing the same. Don’t forget to link if you’d like!


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.

Vote for the Short Story Ending Contest Winner!

17 Jul

The Short Story Ending Contest is now open for voting! We’ve got seven great endings. Go pick your favorite 😀

Voting’s being held at the Katacomb!

Old Spice Guy Says a Few Words Concerning Libraries

16 Jul

Us LTWF girls are taking a breather today.

So we leave you with someone about as far from a LTWF girl as you can get 😀

Book Recommendations: The Sky is Everywhere

15 Jul

by Kat Zhang


From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.


This may be my book of the year.

I tend to look through books before buying them. I’m currently living within walking distance of a bookstore (not very healthy for my wallet, I know), and this weekend I decided to go take a look. I remembered THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE from a contest on someone’s blog, but I really had no idea what it was about.

I’m glad I never read the summary beforehand, because if I had, chances are I would have glanced right pass this book in the store. A girl caught between two guys? Guys who are compared to the sun and moon? Doesn’t really sound like my kind of book.

However, I’m a sucker for lyrical titles and pretty covers, and I was in the mood for something non-paranormal, so I took THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE off the shelf. And by the time I read the summary, the thing was already in my hand, so I figured, “Why not? I’ll just read the first few pages.”

About two hours later, I’d finished the whole thing. There in the bookstore. I wasn’t even sitting in a chair. Seriously. If you happened to be in a certain Borders last Saturday, I was the wacko girl crouching by the shelf, devouring this book.

It’s not a thriller. The beginning, I must admit, was a tad slow. This is definitely a book with a literary slant—if not just plain literary fiction.

But oh man. It was beautiful. Several times, I stopped reading because a line was so wonderful I had to savor it. Once I literally gasped. Not because of something that had happened, mind you, but because of the way Nelson wrote it.

Lennie, the main character, is a poet, and each chapter is prefaced with one of her poems. They add a lovely, haunting touch to an already incredibly lyrical story. I loved it, loved it.

If you’re a regular to Let The Words Flow, you probably know that I’m not exactly  a romance book lover. And yet… I liked the romance in THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. I don’t think my heart had been stirred this much since… I don’t even remember  😀

I can see how this book might not be for everyone. It’s not an I’m Hanging at the Edge of My Seat kind of book. It’s more like reading a poem in book form. A study of the heart. Of healing. Of growth and loss and redemption and love.

It made me realize I need to kick my writing up a notch.

Again, it started out just “good” to me. But after the first few chapters, I couldn’t think of stopping.

Recommend. Recommend. Recommend.


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.

Prompts. Let’s see what you got.

14 Jul

by Biljana Likic


A couple months ago, we asked you guys what you wanted to see more of on LTWF. One of the comments, reinforced by similar comments, was this:

“TymCon: You could give a weekly/monthly writing prompt and then judge the stories and declare a winner.”

We’re not quite at the point of a contest yet, and none of these are going to be judged, but today I wanted to experiment with this prompt idea.

So here’s today’s exercise.

Choose your favourite prompt and run with it.


1. You’re walking down the street and you bump into a person. Their first response towards you is desperate flirtation.

2. You’re at a carnival and in line for a shoot-em-up. You unwittingly pick up a real gun.

3. You’re a spy who’s just been caught selling secrets via dating websites. You have one last chance to cover it up.

4. You didn’t intend on kidnapping anyone.

5. A telephone rings. You don’t own a telephone.


CHECK IT: If ideas run dry, but you don’t feel you’ve exploited the prompt enough, add [Cont.] to the end and invite somebody else to pick it up.

CHECK IT SOME MORE: Fun fact I’ve noticed while writing this post. Prompts are hard to come up with. I challenge you to put any that come to mind in the comments.


Have fun, and don’t be shy!


Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She just graduated high school and is on her way to university where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here.

Prologue Woes

13 Jul

While reading through submissions the last few weeks, I’ve noticed an upsurge in the use of prologues. I’d say roughly 20-30% of the partials we get have that little extra something at the beginning, and more often than not, the first line on my notepad is: remove prologue, or something to that effect.

As a writer, I can understand the lure of including a prologue in your manuscript. It’s an easy way to offer the reader some backstory, to explain something that just doesn’t fit well within the novel itself, or to hint at what’s to come. An enticement, or sorts. And really, that’s what a prologue should be. It needs to grab your reader’s attention right off the bat, and make them want to continue on to chapter one.

That being said, prologues are usually completely unnecessary. You want your story to begin in medias res (“in the middle of affairs”), so pouring information into a prologue or the opening chapters ultimately does your novel a disservice. There is always a place within the story that you could place the same information, and it would allow for a slower progression of facts, which is much easier on the reader. Think of your favorite book. I can pretty much guarantee that the first chapter or two aren’t information dumps. A family’s sordid history is usually explained throughout the course of the book, not front-loaded. It’s easy to forget while you’re writing, but I think sometimes we all need a little reminder.

With prologues, you can’t give away too much. This is one of the biggest problems I’ve come across lately. I recently took a trip to Barnes & Noble to pick up some YA titles I was interested in. One book in particular really struck a chord with me, in that the prologue basically gave away the entire plot. The opening pages did what many prologues do in that it explained the history between two characters. And while that can sometimes work, this one didn’t. Within the first three pages, I knew exactly what was going to happen between the main characters, and how the story would end. Talk about feeling cheated. While the book itself was pretty good, I was still frustrated that nothing came as a surprise. I like having to work to figure things out, and the prologue for this story spelled everything out. You don’t want your prologue to be too obvious. Leave some room for guessing!

One book that I think has an excellent prologue is Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush. It’s a great example of how these monsters should be tackled. It explains some of the history of the story, while leaving plenty to the imagination. The tension is palpable within those opening pages, and carries on throughout the entire novel. You get to meet certain characters, but you don’t find out who until later on. It’s vague, but at the same time, it’s not. By the end of the book, you can really appreciate the information given in those few opening pages. That is how a prologue should work.

In my time, I’ve written my fair share of prologues. In fact, every story I wrote before May of this year contained one. I always thought readers would want a hint, a little tidbit, about the story. Something to wet their palette. A lot of the stories on Fiction Press contain prologues as well, which is where I initially picked up the habit. Since beginning my internship, and having read so many prologues that just didn’t work well for the story, I decided to go back and look over my own work. And, in the end, the prologues I’d written weren’t necessary. So I deleted them all and worked the information into the story another way. Overall, I’d say my manuscripts are better off.

Now, don’t take this post to mean that if you’ve written a prologue, you should immediately go and delete it. Don’t! But really consider its function in your story. Are you dumping too much information on your reader? Would you notice its absence if you deleted it? Is it an integral part of your novel, or just something you wanted to include for fun? If it really is important, by all means, keep it. But if you find that your book would be exactly the same, or better, if you took it out, do the right thing. You’ll be happier for it, your manuscript will appreciate it, and the first line on my notepad can instead be: I’m hooked.


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her dystopian romance, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.

Get Over Yourself

12 Jul


Sarah J. Maas


I’m going to confess something. Back when I started writing QUEEN OF GLASS (like, years and years ago), I was arrogant. And I knew it. I embraced it. I thought my book was the greatest thing ever written, and that everything I wrote was perfect. I sneered at my classmates in my creative writing courses—I scoffed at my teachers (one of whom deserved to be scoffed at, though, so I’m sorta justified). I thought I would never, ever, EVER have to change a word of QUEEN OF GLASS.

Well, I was a dumbass back then. Eight years and about five major rewrites later, I could seriously beat the crap out of my sixteen year-old self for thinking what I wrote was untouchable.

Nothing you write—especially a first draft—is perfect. And even when you’ve revised and polished until your eyes cross (which, believe me, they will), odds are, you could still revise and polish a little more. Sometimes, doing that billionth rewrite means the difference between publication and…more submissions. Deciding to do a rewrite—even after years of revising—means accepting that your work is not perfect, that you are not perfect. It means getting over yourself.

With QUEEN OF GLASS, I’ve had to get over myself a lot. But somewhere down the road (I’m pretty sure it was when I was about to query with a 240k word manuscript, and Mandy Hubbard was like: “Um, NO.”), I realized that I was the only thing standing between myself and publication.

I realized that cutting out 100k words wouldn’t kill QUEEN OF GLASS, nor would cutting out another 20k words, nor would another massive rewrite that required the removal of a major plotline and some beloved characters. I realized that I had to let go—I had to stop being narrow-minded about my vision for my book, and I had to consider whether keeping that one character or plotline was worth the cost of not being published.

And one day, I realized that all those changes had made the book stronger. Better. Something that I could actually be proud of—an awesomeness that I wasn’t entitled to, but rather something that I’d earned.

A lot of aspiring writers wonder if they’re selling out or sacrificing their artistic vision by doing extensive revisions to please an agent or editor. You’re not. Listen to your gut, but use your head: are you clinging to that character because he/she is necessary to the story, or just because you like them because of that one cute scene? No one in their right mind would have published that first draft of QUEEN OF GLASS. Or it’s 240k word version. And I’m glad. Because those drafts weren’t the best possible book I could have written.

But in order to learn that, I had to start looking at my book from an objective perspective—I had to let go of my sentimentality and arrogance. I had to let go of my fear.

Don’t be afraid of rewriting your manuscript, even if it means deleting 90% of it. Don’t be afraid of failure, or of ‘running out of time’ to get published.

But do be afraid of becoming a writer who refuses to change a word. Be afraid of becoming a writer who doesn’t listen to others when they offer great critiques. Be afraid of becoming an arrogant writer, who thinks they’re above rewriting.

Because the writers who rewrite, and who listen, and who polish until their eyes cross? Those are the writers who make it. Those are the ones you see on a shelf. Those are the ones who got over themselves.*

*Well, to some degree. 😉


Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.