Friday, June 29, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (an offer of representation)

Hi all! Today I welcome Kaye Draper to My First Book. Kaye is one of the newer bloggers that I've been following, but I find her blog, Write Me, a useful spot for all sorts of information from writing tips to books to add to my TBR list and good music to write by. She doesn't have a big following as yet, which I think is a shame, so please do me a favor and go check Write Me out?

Are you back? Good, now you can read her post on querying...

I was kind of stuck as to how to approach this topic, since I’m not a published author , yet. A previous guest post spoke about the query and submissions process with publishers/editors, but I haven’t even gotten there yet. So, I decided to “write what I know”. New writers don’t realize how grueling the process of becoming a published author can be. Maybe we hear it, but we don’t believe it. It can’t be that bad. Listen to me new writer. Eyes on me. You listening? I’ve been there. I’m still not published, but I’ve been at it long enough to learn some small things. And here they are:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (an offer of representation)

1) Expect to spend a lot of time agonizing over how to write a query and synopsis that somehow does you new Bouncing Baby Novel credit

2) Expect to dash off your e-mail to Super Agent (and about 20-100 others)

3) Expect to check your e-mail every five seconds just in case someone responded with a manuscript request while you were in the bathroom

4) Expect to get no requests for Bouncing Baby Novel, even after checking your e-mail every five seconds for a months

5) Expect to start working on Next Great Novel just to distract yourself from checking your e-mail

6) Expect to repeat steps 1-3

7) Expect to finally get an e-mail from Super Agent (or one of the 100 others) asking for more material

8) Expect that Super Agent wants an exclusive

9) Expect to repeat step 4 while stalking Super Agent on her blog, twitter, interviews, and anything else you can dig up on the web

10) Expect to send a follow-up e-mail to Super Agent “just checking in” after six weeks on the unspecified exclusive, because seriously, you’re dying here

11) Expect an immediate response that makes you think she never even looked at the manuscript

12) Expect crushing despair, alleviated momentarily by another request

13) Expect to gain ten pounds while waiting for that rejection

14) Expect to pull yourself up by the seat of your pants and start all over with Next Great Novel #2

15) Expect a couple more immediate request for material on Next Great Novel #2, one within minutes of sending your query

16) Expect to repeat step number 3- even though by now you KNOW better

17) Expect to wonder why, dear Gods and Angles WHY this process takes so long. Meanwhile a published author laughs at you. You have no idea. It took her a year to get her first book published AFTER finding an agent

18) Expect to have moved on to your next project before you even get a rejection on the requested material

19) Expect to be almost finished with Next Great Novel #3 while still wondering what ever happened to that manuscript you sent to Super Agent for Next Great Novel#2

20) Expect to finish Next Great Novel #3 before you ever hear back from Super Agent

The morale of the story? Query widely. Then move on. Don’t sit around waiting for actual, you know… ANSWERS, to the query. Move on to Next Great Novel. Otherwise it will be really easy to become discouraged and never move forward. It might not be your first, second, or fifth novel that lands you an Agent, Maybe it’s book six or book sixty. But if you were still stuck on the first thing you’d ever written, you would never have gotten to book sixty to find out.

You probably won’t believe this until you get there. I think new writers hold out hope that their story will be different, that they’ll be an instant success on the first try. It could happen. But statistically speaking, it’s not likely. Don’t let yourself get stuck. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even when you get an agent (when, not if) you’ll just have to go through the whole process all over again with publishers. And no agent is going to want to rep you if you expect to sit on your hands until something gets published. Butt. Seat. Write. Good luck!

Thanks so much for the great insight of what it's like to be in the query stage, Kaye. I definitely won't be querying one agent at a time.

So Ladies and Gents, this brings us to the end of Query Month at MFB. July is the month of Inspired. Must be a good theme, because almost every Friday is full. Only the 27th is open. So if you want to snap that date up before anyone else, or any of the other dates for the rest of the year, please check out this post and contact me.

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, June 28, 2012



I've got a bit of uncertainty going again. See... I'm coming closer and closer to finishing the edits to Doorways. And... I'm starting to think I don't know what to do with it.

I mean... now is the good time to start drafting my query. But do I really still want to go the traditional route?

Yes, it would be a huge feather in my cap to have my ms accepted by one of the big 6. Or even just by an agent. But... in the current climate where traditional authors are pushed harder and harder to produce more and compete with the self-publishers, do I really want to sell my soul and contract my art in that way?

All this came about when I was speaking to my mother about how authors making a lot of money and producing best-seller after best seller... while they're actually not writing the books with their names on it.  

Or people producing books to the exact same formula. Again. And again. And again.

I have to say that I don't have a lot of respect for those authors. In fact, (and I'm sorry if any of you do this), I feel that those books don't really deserve to take the space that could have gone to authors who spent hours perfecting the craft. Honing it to get to agents' and publishers' standards. Only to be told no because the quota has been filled.

But. As time has passed and I got more attuned to the comings and goings of the publishing market, I realize that a lot of this has to do with pressure. Those authors seem to be trying to produce enough books a year to stay fresh in the readers' minds. And now, they need to produce even faster to compete with self-publishers who need a lot less time to get their books published.

Where am I going to draw the line with my writing? Am I willing to publish less than my standards in order to keep a publisher happy? Do I want the  added pressure that if my book does not compete, which it can't because it's at least three times as expensive as most self-published books, I'll lose  the deal with the publisher?

How much of my soul am I willing to risk in order to get my stories trad-published?

How do you/did you decide your chosen publishing method?

Any advice?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: My Greatest Fear

Today's key-phrase of choice is: "What is my greatest fear in writing."

Well... I obviously can't tell the person who'd done the search their biggest fear, but since I'm assuming their search is about the reasonable fears of being a writer, I thought I'd talk about that.

I think that all writers have two fears, although to varying degrees.

The first fear: That we're not as good as we thought we were.
The second fear: That we'll get our books out there and readers won't get what we've written or the book doesn't sell.

So... pretty much your run-of the mill fear of failure. Of course, when you're stuck in the grips of fear, it doesn't really feel all that normal.

But it's necessary to remember the following: Firstly: We're never as good as we think we are. We're always too critical or not critical enough. So accept it. Then there's nothing to be afraid of. But there will be things that we can do. We can write more to hone our craft to the best it can be. We can give our work to crit partners who will (if they're worth their salt) point out the errors and give you suggestions for improvement. That way you can see where you need to improve and work to improve it. Also, having someone else read your work will give you a slightly more accurate measure of your ability to get across what you want readers to see. But crit partners are a topic for another day.

The Red Vinyard at Arles
As for the book not selling, there's always a chance that it won't. It doesn't mean that you're a bad writer. Reading, like art, is subjective. So the amount of books sold does not reflect on your success and failure as a writer. Remember: Vincent Van Gogh sold ONE painting in his lifetime. The rest all went to his brother Theo. Including:

This one (it inspired a song):

Starry Night over St Remy

And my favorite:

The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night
Units sold isn't always a measure of talent. It's a measure (to a large extent) of conformity. It's a measure (to a huge extent) of luck.

If you think about things from this perspective, these fears aren't all that scary, are they? Just never let go of your perspective. It's vital to your sanity as a writer.

What's your greatest writing fear?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview Tuesday: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Hi all! It's time for another writer interview. This time it's with another lady I've been stalking/following for a long time. In fact, I think I started following her blog back when I first started blogging and it has never stopped being one of my favorite places to visit. Without further ado, here's my chat with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan...

Thanks for visiting my blog today. What can you tell us about yourself?

Thanks for having me! My name is Sandra Ulbrich Almazan. I work in an enzyme lab (I used to be in R&D, but I was transferred to QC a couple of years ago.) I'm married with one son, Alex. In my rare moments of free time, I write science fiction and fantasy.

When I hear that someone writes more that one genre, I always wonder: Do you write your stories one at a time or simultaneously?

Usually I have only one story active (as in writing or revising) at a time. However, I may research one story while working on another. I may also switch to a different project if I'm having trouble with my current one or if a new story idea bursts into my mind and demands to be written this instant.

You said in your rare moments of spare time, you write. How do you make time for it?

I make writing a priority. There are two main times during the week when I can write: on my lunch break at work (I bring my laptop with me) and after my son goes to bed. Weekends can be trickier because I have to catch up on the household chores while keeping my son entertained. Sometimes if he has an activity (like a class at the park district), I'll bring my laptop and work, or sometimes my husband will watch him for a while so I can write. If I'm going some place where I know I'll have some idle time but can't bring my computer, I'll print out a page from my work in progress and write manually. Every little bit helps!

Are you someone who keeps a writing routine with every extra bit of time that you can, or do you write when you feel like it?

I try to keep to a writing routine. The discipline helps me work toward my long-term goals, and I personally feel that if you write at the same time and in the same circumstances on a regular basis, then it's easier to shift into the writing frame of mind.

What hits you first when you get the story idea, character or plot?

It varies from story to story. With my SF novella, Lyon's Legacy, I came up with the plot first and then created a character for the plot. With some of my fantasy stories, I came up with the characters first, and they suggested part of the plot.

Mind telling us a bit about your favorite character?

Gladly! My favorite character is Paul Harrison, star of my upcoming SF novel, Twinned Universes. (Twinned Universes is the sequel to Lyon's Legacy). Paul is the clone of a famous TwenCen musician, but he's more interested in acting than in music. We first meet him as a teenager when he's impulsive, charismatic, determined to do what he thinks is the right thing, no matter what. His heritage gives him a surprising ability, but you'll have to read the book when it comes out to learn what that is.

So are you published/planning to publish anything in the near future?

I have one short story, "A Reptile at the Reunion," that was traditionally published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Last year, I decided to switch to self-publishing. I currently have one novella, Lyon's Legacy, out in e-book (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords) and in paper; another short story, The Book of Beasts, is out strictly as an e-book (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords).

Any self-publishing horror/success stories?

I don't really have anything dramatic to report--either good or bad--yet. I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to get my name out there and build a fan base. It takes time, and it can be hard to be patient. But more established authors, such as Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, always say that the best promotion for your work is the next book, so I just have to focus on revising what I've written so I can put it out there.

Any books coming out later this year?

I'm planning to publish Twinned Universes, the sequel to Lyon's Legacy, later this year. Currently I'm revising it based on feedback from my editor. (I do hire a freelance editor to make sure my work is as good as I can possibly make it.) I may publish some shorter works as well, but Twinned Universes is my priority at the moment.

So are you an edit-lover or hater?

Editing can be a pain, but it makes the story stronger, so it's worth it in the end. 

And last but not least, where can people reach you on the social networks?


Thanks so much for doing the interview with me, Sandra. I really enjoyed finding out more about your writing life.

If anyone else wants to do an interview, please feel free to contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

And while your here, why don't you answer some of the questions above in the comments?  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Others have said: Unsought thoughts mean the most.

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. 

Francis Bacon

Sometimes we spend hours in front of blank pages, searching and searching for the right thing to write. And then once we wrote what we've thought of, we're critical. Some of us tend to spend hours editing and changing every. single. thing. we've written.

I know I do, if I don't watch my internal editor like a hawk.

But here's the thing. Those thoughts and ideas that I actively go looking for always have something lacking in them. Which is why I edit the writing that comes from those thoughts to death.

There are other thoughts and ideas, though. Unbidden ones. If I spend too much time on thinking when I write, those ideas are rare. Or maybe they pop up as often as always, but they're drowned out in all of my forced thoughts.

Those jewels appear, seemingly out of the ether. They're the ones that are the miracle cures of writing. More often than not, they're brilliant. All of my original inspirations, plot problem solutions etc. come from unbidden thoughts.

I could be wrong, but from my own experience, unbidden thoughts and ideas come from the subconscious, after my mind has taken into account more aspects than I could even have thought of and untangled the mess. The result therefore is more complex than the one I consciously could have thought of and yet simple to apply.

And usually, it solves more than just the issue that got me thinking in the first place.

Because of this, I never worry about a writer's block. It's just my mind working out some issues in the story that I haven't even perceived.

It's also the reason why I zone out when I write. I don't want to consciously decide what I'm writing. Because those conscious decisions have led me astray time and time again. To me, conscious decisions are for revisions and edits.

They have no real place in my creative process. Which is why I always refer to my muse, or to my characters making the calls. I don't really believe in muses. But for me to write, I have to keep my writing mind (one dependent on unbidden thoughts) as far from my conscious mind as possible.

Without that, I would never have been able to create something as complex as the Doorways series.

While writing, do you consciously decide what you're going to write? Or do you also try to disconnect your thoughts as far as possible?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Querying for Beginners

My name is Matthew. Matthew MacNish is the pen name I publish fiction under. You can visit my blog, The QQQE, if you would like to know more.

Misha asked me to write about querying for beginners today, and especially mistakes some beginners make. Before I get into that, let me tell you a bit about myself, and my history with query letters, and point you to some places where I learned about them.

When I first started sending out queries, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know any writers in real life, and I hadn’t met any on the internet yet at the time. So I crafted what I thought was a good query, and sent it out. I got a couple of requests (surely based more on the pages than the query), but I was inevitably rejected. I wasn’t ready. Neither was my query—or my book.

You can read some of my terrible old queries, and see many good examples of the mistake this beginner made, by checking the label “queries-rejections” at my blog.

So I decided to study query letters, and as much as I hated them, I decided I would get good at them. So I started my blog, and began by sharing my own mistakes, so others could learn from them. Then I started finding some great resources for helping to learn how to write a better query. First, was Nathan Bransford’s blog, specifically posts like Query Letter Mad Libs, and Anatomy of a Good Query Letter. Then it was Kate Testerman’s blog, and especially her service Ask Daphne! About My Query. Then I met Elana Johnson, read her e-book From the Query to the Call, and after getting to know her (and the other great hosts) for a while, I won a query contest at Write On Con, which you can read the results of, in which Literary Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe critiqued my query, here.

Once I figured out how to write a decent query, I started hosting and analyzing successful ones on my blog. They didn’t have to have earned the author an agent, just a full or partial request. The fun part though, is several of those queries are now published books. You can find a list of those posts, here. Then, once I became familiar with good queries, I started critiquing query letters on my blog.

You can find those posts by checking the label “queries-critiques” on it.

Now that you have some background let’s talk about query mistakes.

First and foremost is the Rhetorical Question. This one is so bad, and so famous, it’s almost an internet meme. Here are some examples of what people think of rhetorical questions in queries:

Tahereh Mafi makes fun of them

The Rejectionist answers some of them
The Query Shark threatens those who use them

Nathan Bransford writes some for classic novels

So yeah, don’t use rhetorical questions. In fact, I would advise you just leave questions out of your query altogether.

The next most common mistake I see is vagueness. Being vague in a query is even worse than being cliché. Well, okay, not always. A really bad cliché could probably ruin a query, but I don’t see that as often as I see people being vague.

When you write a query, get specific. Don’t say character x’s life flipped inside out when her mother came back into her life, show us how it changed, specifically, because even though we can all imagine hundreds of ways in which that kind of incident would change a person’s life, we need to know exactly how it change this character’s life, so that we can begin to picture the world within the story the query letter is describing, and not be left wondering what actually happens.

Not as common, but probably worse, is when a query has no sense of character. I often see people begin with the character’s name, but then just jump right into the inciting incident. You can have an awesome plot, with a perfect inciting incident, but if the reader does know what kind of person your character is, they’re not going to care what happens to them.

I could probably go on, but this post is long enough already, so I’ll leave it to your readers to ask questions in the comments if they have any, Misha.

Thanks for having me on today!

Thanks so much for this great post, Matt! I'm just there will be more than one reader who has been dying to find such a good list of tips and research links as this. I know I have. It was wonderful to have you here.

Anyone else interested in doing a Guest Post Friday? I have two in July and four in August open. If you are, please see this post for more information and contact me.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm going on a writing fast.

I've been sitting without writing anything new for almost two months now. It's not that I don't want to write. It's just that the drive isn't there. So... instead of feeling bad about this, I decided to go on a writing fast.

Which I guess is good, since I'm supposed to be in the edit mode while I finish up Doorways.

Still, I can't just sit down and laze around in front of the TV. Or I could, but I don't want to.

This obsessive-scribbling-free time can be spent on refueling my creative tanks. And boy am I.

I spent about a quarter of my salary to buy canvasses, paints, papers, charcoal, erasers, brushes etc. to rekindle another love that I've left to stagnate when I was at university. Painting and drawing.


And you know, rather than itching to write, I'm itching to paint. Sadly it will have to wait. I (in a moment of passion and stupidity) bought oil paints. WONDERFUL on canvas. TERRIBLE on drying time. And I only have five weeks until we have to move. Five winter weeks. In the Cape. Where it's humid.

Siiiiiiiiiiigh. I am not going to take that risk. What if I love the painting only to have it be smudged?

Canvas + oil colors + smudge = HORRIBLE disaster.

I'll just have to make do with sketches. Actually it's good, because it's been years (almost six) since the last time I painted. So charcoal drawings are a great way to get my eye and hand in. Getting the flow and light and shades right.

But it's not the only thing I'm doing. I also joined the gym, so the flow of oxygen might do my muse a world of good.

And I can read more. Maybe even finish the library books that I've been loaning for six months now. Yeah there's an idea. I can get out more.

With all these different activities, it will only be a matter of time before my muse returns demanding that I write. Can't wait. But in the mean time, I'm going to change things up and expand my horizons.

Have you ever gone on a writing fast to focus on refueling your creativity? What do you do in that time?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: The Goal of Rewriting a Novel

For those of you who are new to my blog, every Wednesday except for the first one every month, I take a key-word or phrase that have drawn or will draw readers and then I write about it.

This week's phrase is: "What the goal of rewriting a novel."

See here for credit and awesome post on Revisions vs. Rewrites
My guess is that everyone has a different reason for rewriting a novel, but in general, rewriting is mainly done to correct problems that are so big and so pervasive that it's easier to write the novel again than to simply revise it.

Because trust me, most writers will revise and revise until they can't any more before they rewrite.

Most writers whose blogs I've read keep rewriting as a last resort when they absolutely can't fix the story in any other way. And even then, rewriting will usually happen after a long period of putting the ms on the back-burner.

On the other hand, I think of rewriting as just another tool in my arsenal, along with revisions and edits.

Where edits are to fix small errors, revisions are for fixing big issues. Rewriting fixes errors, plot holes and other problems that are even bigger.

And I find it incredibly useful. So useful, in fact, that I don't write a single book that I don't rewrite before I revise. It's something that I would recommend to any pantser, because rewriting shaves out all those orphan scenes where we got distracted. It cuts out or ties up loose strings.

Basically it pretty much uniformly improves the quality of your manuscript before you start sanding it down and polishing it. Where revision fixes things part by part or aspect by aspect (I.E. by focusing on characterization or conflict), rewrites is a good way to improve everything throughout the entire draft.  

BUT. If you want to use rewriting as part of the editing process, it's important to take some time to think about your story. Give your draft a rest so that you can get some distance from it and then reread it. Think about everything that needs to be smoothed, added or removed. Then you'll need to have some sort of a plan before you rewrite. Yes pantsers, I know this sounds insane, but if you don't plan before rewriting, you'll just be writing a slightly altered rough draft of your original story. That won't help you, since the point is to come out with a more polished version of the same story you wrote.

You definitely want to recognise your WiP when you reread your rewritten draft.

In summery, rewriting can potentially have two main goals: To completely change the story you've written from start to finish, or to improve the quality of your ms as consistently as possible.

How do you use rewrites? Do you hate rewriting?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I decided to move up the Doorways Deadline


I really didn't want to do this, but I just couldn't see how I'd finish Doorways by the end of the mouth. I still have to work through crits for most of the stories and that means that my crit partners have to read my work.

They have lives. Most of them are recently published or working to get their work published. Some are doing both at the same time.

So in the scope of things, my book (in comparison to theirs) had a lower priority. Which is fine.

It just made sticking to the deadline impossible.

Especially since I haven't even sent out the ms to Beta readers.

So yeah... I gave myself two months extra. Hopefully that will be enough.

How's your writing coming along? Anyone publishing or editing?

Monday, June 18, 2012


Today is going to be another cop-out, I'm afraid. Before I'm going to write one more post, I have to pin down how I'm managing my time.

Because honestly, I can't take this any more.

Will be back tomorrow.



Friday, June 15, 2012


SUBMISSION.  That is a word few of us like to talk about.  Whether it be out of superstition, fear, or the unspoken rule to keep quiet until the deal is done, we tend to keep our mouths shut, leaving a lot of aspiring authors wondering what the hell goes on once a manuscripts leaves an agent’s hands.  So I am going to toss aside my crazy superstition, put down my voodoo doll, break ranks, and give you an inside glimpse of what the submission process is like for me.

We all hear about the whirlwind, six-figure, debut deals that were made within a matter of days.  You all know what I mean – the wrote my first ms in three weeks, queried on Monday, got my agent of Wednesday, and sold my book to one of the big-six on Friday type deals.  They are tweeted, re-tweeted, blogged about, linked-in, facebooked so much that authors begin to think those are the norm, that if we don’t query and sell within the same month then somehow we are manuscripts are inadequate.  But I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that those deals, despite the press they receive, are rare.

Let me repeat that.  They. Are. Rare.   Exciting? Yes, but absolutely rare.

In my experience, it takes time, patience, and the skin of an armadillo to survive submission.  You spend months, sometimes years perfecting your manuscript; it becomes an extension of yourself, something you know as intimately as your own spouse.  You ship it off to a handful of agents, hoping that one bites.  She does and you get excited, celebrate, blog and tweet about it.  And you should, it is a huge accomplishment that deserves to be recognized.  Then you buckle down, put the champagne away and start revising, because no matter how much your agent loves your book, said agent is going to want it tweaked.  She is going to make you dig deeper and write harder than you ever thought you were capable of.  You’ll bellow about it, maybe even curse like me, but in the end, your manuscript will be stronger, the threads more cohesive, and the characters will have more depth.  Sometimes it takes one round of revisions, sometimes it takes six, but in the end, the sweat, the tears, even the string of profanities you have become so fond of all seems worth it. 
Now you are ready to play with the big dogs.  Your agent sends you a list of editors she is planning on submitting to and gives you the date it’s heading out.  You search Publisher’s Marketplace, you stalk twitter, blogs, anything you can to try and get a feel for these editor’s tastes.  You get excited, you check your e-mail incessantly, you toy with starting another manuscript just to keep your mind busy.  And then you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.  And then, when you're done waiting, you wait some more.  See, having an agent doesn’t get you published faster, it just gets you in front of the right people. There are editors, and senior editors, and acquisition boards, and marketing boards to clear before your offer comes; and, let’s face it, that takes time. Unlike getting an agent, you don’t need one yes – you need two or three, sometimes four yeses before the offer comes.  But when the offer finally comes, when the subject line in your email isn’t a ‘sorry’ but rather a big old smiley face, then it is all worth it.  Somehow all the frustration, the angst, and the pent-up fears about failing fade away.
So my advice to those of you sitting in query or submission hell – don’t let one rejection define you as a writer, because frequently that one yes comes on the heels ten no’s.

Trisha was born with an imagination that couldn't be restrained. Chastised as a child for being a perpetual daydreamer, she has learned to harness that creative power to write YA Contemporary and Speculative Fiction. 

A former Social Worker, she's had the unfortunate opportunity to see some of the blacker shades of life and the honor of witnessing some of the most amazing stories of recovery and triumph. Trisha now draws on these experiences to weave stories that show the depth and courage of the human spirit in today's youth. She is represented by the amazing Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, LLC

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview Tuesday: Simon Forster

Hi all! I declare today to be an honorary Tuesday, because I was working all day yesterday and was actually supposed to post an interview.

As a result, and since this is honorary Tuesday, I get to welcome Simon Foster to my blog.

Thanks for visiting, Simon!

Easy question first: Tell us a bit more about yourself.

Thank you, and hello! This is always the sort of question I have trouble with (that's a good start, isn't it?); how much to divulge, what to say, what is it about me that people might find interesting... but since your blog is about writing, I'll start with that: I like to consider myself a writer, even though I have only had a couple of pieces published in on-line places, self-published some short stories, and been rejected more times than I can remember; but I have written over a million words of fiction, lots of short stories, a few novels and novellas, and even though some of it is complete rubbish, there's a couple of good ones too. It's what I'd ideally like to do with my life, rather than sit in an office doing boring administration (sadly my day job).

I'm a role-player, as anyone who visits my blogs will know, and have been for the past 30 years. I am a self-confessed geek, with a love of cult TV, films, especially Doctor Who. I live in London, UK, with my fiancée, and long to become a published author.

Roleplaying always sounds interesting to me. Do you find that it helps you in your writing? Or do you think certain things don't translate well?

I find that it helps with inspiration, but I honestly think that trying to write a story based on a gaming session or campaign is a BAD IDEA. I've tried it, I've read stories by other people who tried it, and I don't think it works at all. It can help with the whole world-building side of writing, but that's about it. At least, that's my thoughts on it.

I guess it comes down to this: the mechanical side of a game doesn't translate well, but the flavour does.

Also, I find that they can create conflicts and sap energy from each other. If I spend too much time creating adventures for RPGs, I find my writing suffers; oddly, it rarely works the other way round. If anything, my writing adds fuel to the imagination for the gaming side.

Makes sense. So when I hear role playing, I almost immediately want to peg you as a spec fic writer. What is your preferred genre?

I guess fantasy is my ideal genre, simply because I like making things up :). I have dabbled in others- science fiction, horror, even romance- mostly in short stories, and wrote a noir thriller in the style of Raymond Chandler just to see if I could. I do want to write a historical novel, but not yet ready to put pen to paper.

My ideal fantasy tends to move away from typical sword & sorcery types, since I grew bored with them, and I like to do something different if I can; these days that is increasingly difficult.

I know what you mean. I write fantasy as well and find it difficult to try and come up with something fresh. How do you do it?

Partly by taking bits from lots of different sources and trying to make fit; sometimes by taking a common or typical idea and twisting it so that it becomes something else; mostly by hoping I don't stumble across someone who has already done it :)

I read a lot of fantasy, or have done in the past, so whenever I write I try to avoid doing anything like the books I've read; which probably explains why I moved away from fantasy books and keep looking for something new to read.

So your historical that you want to write: in which era is it set?

I want to write one set in the Elizabethan era, after reading up on Queen Elizabeth the First. Lots of intrigue going on, lots of interesting characters too. Of course, I also want to tamper with it and thought about making it an alternative history story, sort of what would happen if HG Wells War of the Worlds occurred in that era rather than Victorian England. I would be tempted to write one during the reign of Charles II, but Neal Stephenson already did that.

Ooh that does sound interesting. What's your favorite phase in producing a story and why?

The actual writing part is my favourite, especially when it's flowing from my brain onto the paper/keyboard. Just seeing the words appearing and the story taking shape reminds me why I do it in the first place. I just love creating stories.

Plotter or pantser?

A bit of both really, but leaning towards pantser; although, these days, I trying to be more of a plotter, because it makes writing the story a bit easier. I don't plot too much though, as in the past that has effectively killed the story for me and I found I no longer wanted to write it.

The same happened to me. In the end I gave up on plotting for first draft. Later I went back to one of those stories that I'd abandoned and rewrote it. Have you ever done that?

I keep going back to my folder of abandoned stories, reading through them, and seeing if any are redeemable. Some I just salvage ideas from. But there was one story, which I kept dropping and starting again, which I eventually finished after several years of starting & stopping. Still don't have a decent synopsis for it though, but the story is finished and is one of my best now (after editing and a few rewrites).

I love it when that happens. Do you edit as you write or do you lock up your inner editor?

I write most of my stories by hand, rarely editing, and only really edit when I type it up on the computer. Then I go through it again with my Editing-Eye. Until then, I just let the words flow, even if they seem a bit messy.

Oh my word me too! I'm so glad that someone else writes by hand. Okay then: where can people find you and/or your works?

I like writing by hand. The flow of the pen, the way it scratches the paper. Almost feels a shame to type it up sometimes.

To find me: my RPG blogs are and City of Bones, while you can find some my stories on, in various formats. Some are free to download too :)

In fact, if you Google 'theskyfullofdust' I pop up all over the place.

Thanks for the great interview Simon! I really enjoyed getting to know you better.

Anyone else role-play? Or draft by hand? Want to do an interview with me?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Back, but not quite on track

Aaaaaah sometimes just a short break can make things better. I heard back from the doctor and I have a clean bill of health, except for certain hormones. But they're not the ones that were making me tired.

Still... I'm just glad that it's not something serious.

But yeah... in retrospect I think that it was lethargy that came from recovering after a stressful few weeks before.

You know that feeling as you prep for something really important and set all tiredness, emotions etc. aside until later only to have them all come back and thump you on the head once you're done?

Yeah. That feeling.


I had it.

Now I'm feeling a lot better, but I've decided to make a more active effort at getting control over my stress, because I don't think that this emotional roller coaster ride is healthy for me. And all things considered, I'd rather not be medicated. And at the rate I was going, I might as well have asked for a prescription.

So... yeah. It's a bit of a tricky situation, because this lethargy has been creeping up on me ever since I started working.  As a result, the level of activity that have taken me months to build up just isn't there any more. I have to build it up from scratch again.

But rather that than not getting anything done because I'm too tired/lethargic to.

So... although I will be back to regular posting, I might only be back to visiting other blogs later this week, since I'm just going to HAVE to sit down, take the billions of puzzle pieces that are my life at present and fit them all into my week. If I don't, I might be insane by Thursday.

What's your approach to getting everything done?

Friday, June 8, 2012

When It’s Just Not Happening

Hi all! Today I have the honor of welcoming Katie Mills AKA the Creepy Query Girl to my blog. Katie's blog is a great place to stop to find out all there is to query writing, including a view at the life of a query writer. So if you're trying to go the traditional route, her blog is the place to go. Without further ado, here's Katie!

When It’s Just Not Happening

 So, you’ve figured out how to write a query that pricks an agent’s interest. How do you know this?
You have requests! Woohoo!

Before this point, it’s fairly easy to figure out problems that might be preventing agents from reading your manuscript. And you can tweak your query or your first 250 words and throw the line back out.
Partial requests have you feeling hopeful! Full requests keep you up at night, for awhile…

But this is the point where querying becomes the hardest.
Since I began querying, I’ve received around twenty requests for full manuscripts. And twenty times I kept hoping that someone would come back with a positive response.

And a few of them did – giving me positive or negative feedback.

One even offered to do a revise and resubmit. Twice!
And yet, I am still un-agented.

Does that mean my work stinks? (God, I hope not!) My betas don’t seem to think so.
So what’s going on? What am I doing wrong?

Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned from years in the query trenches, it’s that agents are just like us. They are looking for that story they want to read exactly when they want to read it and they have a lot of work and words vying for their attention.
You can’t be ‘the one’ for everyone. But you have to believe that your fairy god agent is out there.

That is the key to surviving the process. You can question yourself. You can change. You can learn. You can try again.
Doubting yourself and your writing is normal. Wanting to give up is normal. When it just isn’t happening, you start to wonder if it ever will.

 I know I have.
After all, at this point it seems forming fossils move faster than the publishing industry. Requests no longer bring any hope –just anticipation of the disappointment that comes with the inevitable rejection. Researching agents is torture. Sending out queries seems pointless.

But it’s taught me endurance and the meaning of the word ‘determined’. It’s helped me develop a thick skin. It’s kept me on my toes and in constant search of bettering my craft.
Sometimes, the query process is just a blip on the radar for published authors.

But other times... I think the query trenches are where mettle is tested and writers are made.
Thanks so much for this encouraging post, Katie! It was great having you on my blog. So, ladies and gents, are you going the traditional route? Have you met with any sort of success? How do you deal with rejection?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

About the silence...

Hi all, just want to let you know that I'm still alive. Just very very exhausted. So much so that I went to the doctor yesterday to do some blood tests to find out why.

Because of this, I'm going to take a break for the rest of the week in an attempt to save some energy, since I need it to work.

GPF will continue, though. See you on Monday!

Love you all.


Friday, June 1, 2012


Hi Everyone!
I promised Misha ages ago that I’d do a post on... querying.
No, don’t run for the hills, it’s not all bad.
I’ve been out on queries twice in my life – the first time was a couple of years ago, with a YA/MG that even I realised, after a while, wasn’t quite ready to be submitted yet.
The second time is ongoing: I started querying my historical romance, Out of the Water, a few months ago. I’ve gone about it a lot more slowly and a lot more methodically than the last time.
I browsed agent blogs, looked up the agents of my favourite writers, haunted Agent Query and the other agent-listing sites, and came up with an Excel sheet.
As I send out a query to each agent in order, this time around, I’ve made a lot more effort to personalise each letter.
The magic connection between agent and author hasn’t happened yet. So I’m not sure if I’m the right person to give out advice. I’ve had to learn and relearn to stop comparing my progress with others; no medal or award has ever been given for fastestwritertolandanagentever.
I’ve had oodles of help along the way, though, and I can share with you those who’ve helped me:
First and foremost there’s the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, a treasure trove of newbies, seasons authors, and all around great folks who are all too willing to critique and praise.
Then, Barbara Rogan, whose Next-level Workshop did wonders for the final draft of Out of the Water.
And then there was Mindy McGinnis, who held a Saturday Slash featuring my query letter!
Finally, just to show that you never know what’s around the bend, there’s always Adam Heine’s query story, about how he sent out over 100 query letters, but the third agency he’d queried ultimately asked to represent him.
All you can do is keep querying - and keep writing! Especially short stories, if you can - so much easier to submit to magazines, on all kinds of topics!
In the words of Neil Gaiman: “Just keep authoring things or you will be eaten by flowers.”

Deniz Bevan recently returned to Romance after a foray into Young Adult and Middle Grade novels. She's currently querying my latest romance, Out of the Water, set in Spain and Turkey in 1492 and editing a second romance set in the same time frame, Rome, Rhymes and Risk. She also writes travel articles and book reviews for the trilingual newspaper Bizim Anadolu and the 100 Romances Blog. Visit her at her blog.