querying · Writing

Querying Mistakes to Avoid

During my time reading queries whether for myself or another agent, I’ve seen the same mistakes over and over. Querying is hard and you don’t want to be your own biggest barrier to finding representation. If you’ve done your research these mistakes shouldn’t be a problem. However, many of the authors I see making these mistakes often appear to have not done their research on querying and end up hurting themselves right out of the gate. Remember to always be prepared and well-informed to give yourself the best chance!

Not following submission guidelines. I see this far too often. If an agent says to query them on a specific form or at a specific email, do so. Not following guidelines is an easy way to get your query rejected and possibly not even seen by an agent. Guidelines exist for a reason and going against them will make you stand out, but not for a good reason. Make sure you are pitching agents who represent your genre and age category. Don’t get yourself started off on the wrong foot by not following guidelines. Continue reading “Querying Mistakes to Avoid”

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Editing · Writing

Character Motivations

Like many things, character motivations can make or break a story. When motivations fall flat it can be hard to connect to characters or understand their actions. Weak motivations can cause issues with other aspects, like plot and stakes. Let’s discuss issues to avoid and how to make sure your character has strong and clear motivations.

First off, when a character doesn’t know why they are doing something my interest wanes especially if this happens in the first chapter when the stakes are being set up. If a character doesn’t know, it doesn’t tell me about them or why I should care. In fact, it makes their actions feel unimportant. It’s often a big red flag when a character even thinks “I don’t know why” in regards to their actions and motivations. If they don’t understand themselves, the readers can’t understand. This makes their actions feel forced for the sake of plot. Motivations help develop characters and their role in the story.  Forcing motivations for the sake of plot causes characterization and as well as motives to suffer in return. Continue reading “Character Motivations”

self publishing · Writing

The Bias Against Self-publishing

Once upon a time self-publishing was seen as the option for the uniformed and writers who well, weren’t very good. These days self-publishing has become a much more viable option thanks to the internet, but the bias still lingers and drives writers away from it. Some traditionalists still hold that traditional publishing is the only path that has any merit, while some self-publishers think taking control of your writing is the best way to go. And let’s not forget about the growing numbers of hybrid authors who have published both ways. A lot of people on the traditional side seem to avoid discussing the topic, but I work with clients on both ends of the industry and I’ve personally worked with some great self-published authors.

Self-publishing wasn’t always as easy as it is today. While self-publishing used to be associated with scams in which houses forced authors to pay to be published, these days self-publishing often entails authors handling the publishing of the book themselves. While the publishing landscape has evolved, old biases still linger. With more authors self-publishing than ever before there have been heated debates on the topic of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Continue reading “The Bias Against Self-publishing”

Editing · First Chapters · Reading · Writing

First Chapter Pet Peeves

As an editor and a literary agency reader I read a lot of first chapters. Like A LOT. I’ve blogged about types of openings to avoid before. There are a few openings and issues I spot in first chapters all the time that instantly turn me off a book because I see them so often and they simply don’t grab my attention.  I’m going to tell you some of my first chapter pet peeves and exactly why they don’t work for me.

Starting a story with a character waking up. I see this way, way too often. Usually when I see it the character is waking from a dream or their phone wakes them up in the middle of the night. This opening doesn’t work for me because A) I’ve seen it so often it has become cliche, and B) it doesn’t grab my attention. I want to get to know your characters right away.  Start me with something more unique to them and their story and not something that could be used for any character. Similar to this beginning is starting with a character’s daily routine. It isn’t attention grabbing. Continue reading “First Chapter Pet Peeves”

history · Reading · Writing

Modern Women in Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres right behind fantasy. While I love all kinds of historical fiction, I enjoy reading about the lives of women since their experiences can be so different from my experiences today. However, I’ve noticed historical women being modernized too much in ways that don’t match their time periods. Making a main character relatable without too much modernization can be difficult, but I love seeing historically accurate representations of women.

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Sometimes I pick up a historical and think, “Wow, this main character reads as though she stepped right out of the current day and into history.” Looking at you in particular here historical fantasy novels. It’s true that some women were ahead of their day, but often the modernizing of women in regards to their views and attitudes aren’t always historically accurate. I’ve noticed a trend of historical and historical fantasy gravitating around women who don’t want to get married, usually for reasons that wouldn’t fly in their time period. Views about their own place in society are often modern as well. While I appreciate the women who fight against society to make progress or refuse to accept the double standards placed on them, I also find myself longing for stories about the average woman and how she navigated the social mores cast upon her. While women who were ahead of their time can be easier for a modern author to write about, reading about the average woman helps me appreciate the progress made since their era and how different my life has been from theirs. Continue reading “Modern Women in Historical Fiction”

Editing · Grammar · Publishing Life · Writing

Rates: Content VS. Copy Edits

Content editing and copy edits usually have different rates. In the traditional sphere I often hear about how content edits take longer than copy, but in the indie sphere it’s often the opposite with copy edits costing more. I found myself thinking about this when I saw an agent mention how content edits take longer and cost more, even though most freelance editors I’ve seen have higher copy rates, myself included. So let’s discuss why that is! This is all based on my observations, so keep in mind other editors may have different opinions and views on the topic. There is some harsh truth in this post but fear not because there is advice at the end!

As a reminder for those who might not know, content edits deal with things like plot, pacing, and character development while copy edits deal more with line edits and grammar. Some editors have a knack for grammar while others find grammar frustrating but are great at spotting weak character development and plot holes. It’s not uncommon for editors to focus on one or the other and they often do so in the houses while freelance editors might offer multiple services to bring in more projects. I got my start as a proofreader and copy editor on the traditional side but these days I find I enjoy content editing more. Continue reading “Rates: Content VS. Copy Edits”

Editing · Formatting · Writing

Writing Mistakes at the Sentence Level

I’ve noticed lately that I comment on a lot of the same issues when doing line edits, so I decided to make a short list of the common issues I spot while editing or reading. The issues below are tips to keep in mind when you tackle line edits. They are issues I spot and bring up with clients all the time and even sometimes spot them slipping past edits in published books. Keeping an eye out for the below will help strengthen your sentences.

Shaking Versus Nodding: When a character shakes their head, it means no. Nodding means yes. Too often characters shake heads to mean yes or nod no and it confuses the reader.

Repetitive Wording: If a character nods, it’s assumed they are nodding their head because what else are they going to nod? Same with shrugging. Stick to a concise nod or shrug instead of the longer and more repetitive, “She nodded her head.” Continue reading “Writing Mistakes at the Sentence Level”