Friday, 29 November 2013

Vlog Series - Episode Five - Revise & Resubmit

Hi!  It's time for the next episode in the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.

Welcome to Episode Five - Revise & Resubmit, where we'll be looking at what to do if an agent asks you to revise your manuscript and send it back to them for further consideration.

If you missed the previous episodes, you can check them out here:

Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

Episode Three - Partial And Full Requests

Episode Four - Rejections

Happy viewing!


Friday, 22 November 2013

Want Some Pitch Wars Help?

Only ten days to go until the infamous Pitch Wars!

The heat is ratcheting up as SUB day fast approaches.  So, since I am trying to earn the best of the best submissions in the game, I thought I'd share a few secrets and tips on how to really get the most from your manuscript (especially if it's coming my way!).


Fiirst off, let's talk character:  What makes a good character?  A good character is someone we root for, someone we believe in, someone we wish we were, someone we can relate to, or someone we are fascinated by.  Or a combination of all of these elements.

Characters WANT something.  They have a burning desire.  And we need to know not only what it is, but WHY.  And the quicker you can get this on the page, the quicker you're going to hook your reader.

I could waffle on for hours.  But, someone better than me should.  So let's go over to the wonderful, amazing article by Mr Donald Maass:


Whether you're a panster or an outliner doesn't matter.  What matters is that your plot is organic from your characters.  The choices made have to be such that we believe THAT character would make those choices, and if they don't, there is a compelling enough reason WHY NOT.

Plots needs to be tight with pacing, ideally set up in three acts, with each scene and chapter moving the plot forward towards the ultimate end game.

You need to keep the stakes high.  You need to almost give your character what they want, then rip it away from them.  You need to break them, build them, love them.

Be mindful that you have to balance internal and external conflict.

This is a really cool link about plotting:

Now, my advice as good as my advice can be, there are the masters of writing that you really want to study no matter WHAT your genre.  So go check these vids out.  Don't worry if it's not your genre.  The advice still applies:

Neil Gaimen:

Mr. Stepen King

Jodi Pilcoult:

And a nice little combo of links to watch through:

These are just a few of the very, very talented authors you should be reading up on.  I picked out names off the top of my head.  If your genre isn't represented by these writers, still learn from them.  If you really still want a video to watch of someone who writes amazingly well in your genre, comment and I'll find you one.

Good luck in Pitch Wars!  May the odds be ever in your favour!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

10 Things That Will Make Me Notice You In Pitch Wars

Hi!  Since Pitch Wars is fast approaching and all prospective mentees are busily choosing their lucky mentors, honing their pitches, and trying to work out what they can do to send their submission to the top of the pile, I thought I would do an extra little post about what will really convince me to think seriously about choosing YOUR submission as my winning entry.

My wish list is here:

If you fall within my wish list categories, then read on to find out what will really rock my boat!

1)  Regardless of genre, a little bit of mystery in the opening goes a long way.  Tease me with something.  Give me just enough to follow the thread to see where it leads.

2)  Keep your writing tight.  Eliminate passive writing, "that", "very", and a whole stack of adjectives and adverbs.  Taking extra time to study your craft will help immensely.

3)  Make your query straight forward and simple.  Character + Conflict + Stakes.

4)  Quirky, unique characters.  Stereotypes turned on their heads.  I want someone mentally fascinating.  Good people who make bad decisions for the right reasons.  Bad people who make good decisions for the wrong reason.  Mix it up!

5)  Read your work out loud and check how it flows.  I WILL be reading your work out loud, so if it doesn't flow, I'll know!


6)  Tell me why you want me to be your mentor.  Don't blow smoke up my ass.  I want concrete reasons why we would work well together.

7)  Do your homework.  Give me a comparison title in your query.  Let me know where you see your work sitting on the bookshelf.  And don't worry if I don't agree, my job is to help get you there.

8)  Don't get description heavy (unless you're Historical, in which you have some leeway).  Pick unique details to paint your world.  Don't bombard me with the whole painting.  I want to fill in some brushstrokes in my mind, too.

9)  Start somewhere interesting.  And I don't mean a huge action scene.  I mean the moment when something changes for your MC.  Inciting incident.  If you don't know what this is, ask.

10)  Show me you cared enough to find out more about the mentor you are submitting to than just blind "that'll do".  Normally, when you query an agent, you would personalise the query.  I expect the same.  So, in light of that, anyone who has been dedicated enough to read this post, if you tag the word "Banana" at the end of your query, I'm gonna throw up a full 1st chapter critique on your work if you're not my winning entry.

I know the contest can make it feel like there's a lot of work to do, and, truth be told, there is.  The same amount of work it takes to query an agent.  But here's the rub, this writing gig is a hard, hard slog and if you're not prepared to put in the graft, then you're going to be disappointed.

I look forward to your queries and I can't wait to get to know all you wonderful writers!  Happy subbing!!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mentor Wish Lists - Pitch Wars!

OMG!  I am ridiculously excited!'s that time of year again!  *cue battle cry*  It's...PITCH WARS!!!

So, here's the scoop.  The mentors are back in force, and we're looking for a very special writer each to coach and critique through their ENTIRE manuscript.  Then, we'll throw it up for agent attention.

This is the X FACTOR of the writing world.  If you've got it, we'll help you flaunt it!  So grab your snowballs and join the game! (and thank the amazing S.P. McConnel for the awesome illustration below!).


Pay attention to the post, as you'll see where to go for dates, where to look for submission rules, and who your target agents are, as well as my mentor bio, how to click onto other mentors' bios AAAAND see what last year's winner from my team achieved with her book!  It's all going on here.

So what's up first?

Details first:

  • 11/20 Mentor's post bios and wishlists
  • 12/2: Submission Window
  • 12/3 -12/10: Mentors read their applications
  • 12/11: Mentor's announce their picks
  • 12/11 -1/17: Mentors work with their writers
  • 1/22-1/23 Agent Round



    As this is my second year mentoring Pitch Wars, it's my chance to tell YOU why you want me as your mentor (including that my mentee got a publishing deal last year (shameless, aren't I?)).

    First off, here's a little Vlog (gulp) about what I'm looking for and why you should pick me.  And if you can't access it for any reason, I've also listed them below so you can read them too!

    Okay, in writing, here's a list of the genres I'll be accepting.  Please note:  I only accept Young Adult submissions.  Right, that said, these genres are what rock my world:

    *  Contemporary YA (issue based, dark, gritty, or edgy)
    *  Urban Fantasy
    *  Thrillers
    *  Gothic
    *  Mysteries
    *  Horror (but not perverse)
    *  Mash ups (ANY genre mash up at all, not limited to those above)
    *  Historical
    *  Fantasy
    *  Anything else that is not on the below list that I forgot to write here!!!!!!!!

    I am NOT your girl for:

    *  Dream openings
    *  Elves and whatnot
    *  Vampires (sorry!)
    *  Straight up romance

    Now, if your book falls into one of those categories I want, then read on to find out whether we'll make a good match or not.  Here's a little about me:

    Fiona McLaren is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency for her YA contemporary novel "The Sum of It" and her gothic horror novel "Overtoun Bridge".

    She has interned at two separate literary agencies, scanning the slush for hidden gems and reviewing any full mss sent her way.

    She works as a freelance writer, ghost writing for a variety of clients, and has over three hundred publications under her belt - including articles, short scripts, historical fiction novels, children's books and short stories.

    She loves to edit - character arc, plot arc, line edit, conceptual...whatever it takes. She believes that critiquing is a teamwork operation and that staying true to the author's vision is as important as making the book as commercially ready as it can be. Critiquing is all about communication.

    You can get to know Fiona better as @BookOmnivore on Twitter. See you on the Pitch Wars hashtag!

    Here's a quote from Fiona's mentee last year, who went on to secure a book deal with Entranced Publishing:

    Last year during Pitch Wars the fabulous Fiona picked me, and my book Awakenings, to mentor. I was shocked, I was awed, I may have fainted...just a little though. After I recovered from the shock, Fiona and I got to work. Let me tell you, she was an absolute dream to work with! She was so supportive and the critiques she gave were right on the mark. My book came away cleaner and much stronger, so much so that on the day of the contest I got three full requests!

    Just two months later I received a contract that I accepted. Awakenings hit the market and within three weeks broke into the 100 Best Selling YA Paranormals, making it all the way to number eighteen. I could not be more pleased with the results and I could not have picked a better mentor.

    So what are you waiting for! Pick her and just bask in her awesomeness. You will not regret it. :)

    J.E.Shannon author of Awakenings (Entranced Publishing)

    Contest applicants:  Do the right thing and support your fellow Pitch Wars winners from last year and buy a copy of their books.  After all, you want to win so you can publish.  So did they.  Let's pay it forward.

    Last year's winner from my team:

    Title: Awakenings

    Author: J. E. Shannon

    Publisher: Entranced Publishing

    Genre: YA paranormal romance

    Release Date: July 29th 2013

    Evie Shepard awakens to a nightmare. She's been buried alive and has no idea how or why. As she struggles to remember what happened, she begins to notice changes -- heightened senses, as well as increased speed, agility, and strength. And her heart no longer beats. She soon makes a disturbing discovery: she wasn't buried alive; she was murdered. Somehow, she has come back...and she wants revenge.

    Buy Links: Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords

    Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
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    And which amazing agents are you hoping to snag...well, I'm glad you asked!

    14. LanaPopovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
    17.  Stefanie Lieberman - Janklow & Nesbit Associates
    18. Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency

    Alright, peeps, I will see you in the trenches.  Let's gather those snowballs and get to war....who's with me?!  :-)


    Episode Four - Rejections

    Hi!  Welcome back to the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.

    This is the fourth episode out of six in the series.  If you've missed the first three, you can find them here:

    Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

    Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

    Episode Three - Partial And Full Requests

    This week's episode looks at what to do when/if you get a rejection.

    Happy watching, and I look forward to seeing you for next week's instalment! Comments or questions below!


    Monday, 11 November 2013

    Writing Process

    Yay!  I love blog hops!  And today's is on a great subject - your writing process!
    First off, let me say that at the end of the blog, we're supposed to tag three writers to hop along to their blogs.  However, I'm going to break the mould here because I'd like you all to put your blog link in the comments, so everyone can visit your site.  If you want to fill out the answers to your writing process too, then all the better!

    Okay, the questions ask about your current project.  So I've chosen my top secret WIP.  :-)  Hope you enjoy...
    1. What are you working on right now?
    I'm thrilled to be working on a mash-up piece.  If you've seen the little counter bar at the top right handside of my blog, you'll have deduced it's a Gothic Western.  It's creepy, cowboy-ish, and full of bones, mysteries, and a girl who is definitely not what she seems.

    2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
    Good question!  I think it's different because it focuses on a genre that's been out of vogue for a while (Western) and combines it with a creeptastic genre that a lot of people like (Gothic).  The idea is to spit-shine those spurs and modernise a classic old genre.

    3. Why do you write what you do?
    Ever since I was a kid, I've loved the odd, bizarre and unusual, so that tends to reflect into my writing.  There's something fascinating about the everyday normal being turned on its head.  I also love how the mind works, especially the darker aspects of human nature.  I hope that doesn't say too much about me!  lol

    4. How does your writing process work?
    Butt in chair.  That's it for me.  It doesn't matter what's happening around me.  If I want to write, I just get right down to it.  As far as plotting goes, I'm a mix-and-matcher.  I plot a little, I pants a little.  I do what feels right in the moment.  I don't like to hem myself in to one strict way of doing things.  Instead, I jumble up my schedule, my style, and my process.  It keeps my brain from going stale.
    Now, I've shared mine, you share yours!  Leave your blog link in the comments so everyone can see what you do too!
    Thanks for reading!  :-)

    Saturday, 9 November 2013

    Vlog - Episode Three - Partial and Full requests

    Welcome back to the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.  This is Episode Three: Partials and Full Requests, which looks at what to do if you receive a request from an agent.

    If you're just joining the vlog series, you might want to check out episodes one and two on the links below:

    Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

    Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

    Happy watching, and I look forward to seeing you for next week's instalments!  Comments or questions below!