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Category Archives: Query

Is my Novel Adult, Young Adult, New Adult….or?

First, I want to apologize for being somewhat absent. Life has been…interesting lately. I wish it were full of awesome and wonderful things, but unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Just know that I’m here, rooting for everyone, loving you all, and hoping for a better tomorrow.

Second, the picture I used for this post strikes me as funny. I don’t know why, but hopefully you’ll laugh, too.

Now that’s out of the way, I want to touch on genre and target audience. I say “touch” because this is a conversation that could go on and on.

A lot of writers don’t know what type of book they are actually writing. That’s okay! You’ve spent your time writing your book, polishing it (the important parts), and now you’re ready to send your baby out into the world. Well, how do you market it? Which agents/publishers do you target? Would you send an agent who clearly states they do not rep young adult your novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who is trying to swim through the ocean of adolescence? Probably not.

A good rule of thumb is to look at your main character’s age. Are they ten to fourteen? It’s probably middle grade. Are they fourteen to eighteen? Then you’re probably looking at a young adult audience. Let me go ahead and state that “young adult” isn’t actually a genre–it’s a marketing term. The target audience is fourteen to eighteen (although statistically, more women ages twenty to forty buy the majority of young adult books).

Well, you say, my main character is eighteen (or insert any age here), but the issues are clearly meant for an adult. This can all be a bit confusing. Look at George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones or Room by Emma Donoghue. George Martin has several main characters who fall into the young adult category, but the overall theme of the book is definitely meant for a mature audience, and it’s marketed as adult epic/high fantasy. Room is told from the point of view of a five-year-old. But it is marketed as a piece of literary fiction.

The rules aren’t crystal clear. You will have to do some research to figure out where your book best fits in the market and find which readers will best connect to your book. Knowing your genre is important, but it’s also important to write a good book. If you’ve written, workshopped, edited, rewritten, and polished until you think you can’t polish anymore–you’re going to have a good piece of fiction (or non-fiction) on your hands. People of all ages will want to buy your book because it’s a good book.

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Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Best critique partner ever — Sebastian

There are so many awesome blog posts out there about critiquing, and I encourage you to read all of these posts–you won’t be disappointed. Earlier in the week, Jamie posted about Being Emotionally Prepared for Critiques. I also have a wonderful friend, and fellow YA author, Sarah Ockler, who has written a few posts on critique groups: Evaluating Critique Groups: Six Crucial Questions, and Are you an Ideal Critique Partner?. Brian, from Descent into Slushland, wrote a post How do you Find Critique Partners, and I told him he inspired me to write a post about critiquing, so here goes.

Critiquing — it can be terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I love my partners like they are my own family. I’ve gotten to know them and know about their life, and the friendships I’ve made are everlasting. But no matter how much you love you partner(s) or critique group, it can still be stressful.

When critiquing, there are some things that are helpful, while others simply…aren’t. Writers are full of passion. Yes, you know you are. That passion is crucial to the creative process, but we oftentimes need to keep that passion in check when critiquing for others.

  • Keep it constructive. Sometimes we may not necessarily like a sentence, or maybe a character isn’t working…for YOU. Ask yourself, “Why isn’t this working for me?” Is it simply because you would have written it a different way? Is there a problem with character motivation? Does the wording read awkward? The sentence not tight enough? What kind of image does it bring to mind? Is it the image you think the author is trying to convey? Don’t just tell someone you don’t like something and not tell them why. That isn’t constructive. That is YOU giving a personal opinion.
  • Try to keep the word I out of the critique. Sentences like, “I hate this. I don’t like this character.” Don’t belong in a critique. A critique is serious business. You have to instill and generate a tremendous amount of trust in someone before you can take them seriously. The moment you stop being constructive, the moment the defenses go up.
  • Help diagnose the problem, don’t fix it. It is so easy to want to write someone else’s work for them, because, well, it’s not your work, and we can fix someone else’s work better than we can fix our own. That isn’t your job as a critique partner. If you think the author could say something better (and it isn’t working for you…don’t offer suggestions to something that is working for you), write something like, “Maybe you could try something like this…” Give a suggestion, and then tell them why you’re giving them the suggestion. Sometimes editors and critique partners are good at diagnosing an issue, but we may not have the best solution for fixing it.
  • Ask yourself, “Does this really need to be fixed, or is this just not how I would write it?” This is big. Sometimes we want to rewrite words/sentences/paragraphs/pages when they don’t necessarily need to be rewritten. Everyone has a different writing style–if we didn’t, then no one would read because reading would be boring if everything was similar. It can be easy to try and rewrite things because you think you could write it better. Again, not your job as a critique partner. Just because you would write something one way doesn’t mean it needs to be rewritten at all.
  • Take all feedback into consideration. Not all feedback will be useful. You’re the writer, it’s your story. Sometimes we read something from our critique partner(s) that we disagree with–and that’s normal. You have to have confidence in your work to know what feedback to use and what not to use. BUT, consider all feedback. Even if you’re not going to use it, think about it. Sometimes a comment can spark a thought that leads to an epiphany with your work. Maybe you never would have had the epiphany if you wouldn’t have read the feedback.
  • When two or more. Some people have one critique partner, some have more. Personally (notice I said personally, this isn’t what everyone does, but I’ll tell you why I feel it’s important), I have three (sometimes more–I’m fortunate to have some amazing ladies who read my work) people who read my work for me. Here’s why–when two or more people identify that something isn’t working for them, chances are, you need to go back over that particular thing and rework it. This ties in to taking in all feedback–if one person says something isn’t working for them, but the other two don’t have a problem with it, I still consider it, but I’m not as focused on it as I would be if two or more have a problem with it.
  • Keep a schedule. This is crucial to the success of your work and the relationship with your critique partner(s). Hold one another accountable. If you say you’re going to submit so many pages by a certain date, then make sure you do that. Next, make sure you both agree on when you’ll have them back to the other. Make a schedule that works best for everyone, and keep it.
  • Goals. It’s important to find someone who has the same goals as you. How can you expect someone you’re working with to take your writing serious if they don’t take their own writing serious? If you find someone who is also actively trying to seek publication, and you are actively seeking publication, you can do wonders for each other. You can motivate, encourage, and help the other prepare.
  • Be happy for each other. This is a touchy subject, and I know none of us do this intentionally, but keep that green monster in check. Chances are, you and your critique partner(s) will be at different stages in your writing. One may be further ahead than the other (in terms of being ready to query, not skill level or anything). Encourage them, be happy for them. Querying is a nightmare. There are rejections, second guesses, and lots of emotions to deal with. This is your biggest dream for crying out loud. Be supportive of one another. Offer a shoulder or an ear. Don’t bask in someone else’s misery because you aren’t ready to query yet. Be genuine. It makes a difference.
  • If you have an issue with a critique partner(s), talk it out. Don’t let something fester. If someone says something that hurt your feelings, tell them. They probably didn’t do it intentionally. You have to open up to one another in order for the relationship to be effective. It is a relationship. A big one. Just like any other relationship, you have to put some work into maintaining it. You’ll only grow closer when you do this.

Loki — Sleeping and critiquing

There are a million other things one could write about critiquing, finding critique groups, and being an effective critiquer, but I’ll stop here. What are some things you look for in a critique partner?

 

Learn to Love Writing Queries

The very thought of writing a query used to make my stomach feel as if I’d ridden Alton Tower’s Nemesis twenty times in a row. Sweat would appear on my forehead and I would break into hives at the very mention of the Q word. I would do everything I could to avoid working on mine. But there’s no hiding from it. If you want to get an agent or editor, it’s a must. You better get used to writing them, because this is how you’ll sell your book. And you, indie author, yeah you. Don’t walk away just yet. Don’t think that just because you’re self-published that there aren’t some valuable lessons to be learned from query writing. Learning to capture the essence of your book in a clear and succinct way will help you pitch to your readers and boost sales.

So how do you go from hating writing a query to loving it? It’s all about confidence. It’s about practice. It’s about learning how to write them. Yes, there is a formula, and once you learn it, they are so much easier to tackle. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

1)      Hook ‘em Danno- and reel them in. Agent and editors are looking for reasons to say no. You have to catch their attention from the first sentence of your query. You want them to WANT to read a partial or a full. It must grab the reader and compel them to read on.

2)      It about the Quality of the words you choose, not the quantity. You need to coax the maximum impact out of every sentence so make sure the words you choose to use pack a punch. This way you can cover more information with less words.

3)      Stay focused. What do you really REALLY need to know about the story? Don’t get caught up in trying to explain everything. Focus on your main character, the inciting incident, what they want, and what’s at stake. Give enough basic detail so they can understand the stakes of the plot. All the backstory and subtle nuance will come when they read the manuscript.

4)      Find some fresh eyes. If you’re feeling stuck, have someone you trust take a look at it. Sometimes you can work on something so long that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Having someone else look at it can spark fresh ideas and lead you in a new direction.

5)      Read blurbs from already published novels. Yeah, I know you’ve heard this one before, but it really helps. Looking at examples and trying to emulate how they did it can really help, especially if you’re struggling.

6)      Don’t be afraid. Stop hiding and get started. Just put something on the page and start playing with sentences until you get the right combination. It’s a lot of trial and error at first.

I decided to post two examples of my query for Touched by Darkness. The first one is an early draft. The second is my final draft. I thought it might help to show the evolution. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you start getting some interest. The final draft has led to several requests.  Yours can too.

Version 1: Too Much Information

Staying awake is taking its toll on Quinn Taylor. She’s on academic probation, benched from cheerleading, and popping caffeine pills to keep the dark dreams away. To make matters worse, Kerstin is taking over her once perfect life, stealing her boyfriend, Jeff, and taking Quinn’s spot as team captain. Now the dark visitors are growing more powerful. Awake or asleep, these demons materialize everywhere and only she can see them. When the whole school starts spreading rumours about Quinn’s weird behaviour, Aaron, a mysterious boy with a secret ability, comes to her defence. He enters her dreams and seems to read her mind. She wants to tell him about the demons, about unearthly shadows and leathery beasts crouched on her shoulder. But she’s afraid he’ll turn his back on her, that he’ll confirm her worst fear; that she’s crazy.

Aaron Collier has returned from the dead after being in a coma for over a year. Devoid of memories, he’s spent the last three years using his new psychic abilities to piece together his life by invading the thoughts of those closest to him, and he hates himself for it. His whole life is a lie. When a touch from Quinn ignites a mysterious connection and stirs a real memory from his subconscious, he can’t let her go. He’s the light in her darkness and she holds the answer to his past, but can he win her trust and her heart before the demons and Jeff destroy everything? Jeff wants her back. Her demons push her to the edge. Who can she trust? In the end, it’s Quinn’s choice: Love or lies, faith or fear, darkness or destiny.

Version 2: Hook, quality not quantity, clear and focused.

Seventeen-year-old Quinn hasn’t slept in 23 days. Not since the demons killed her Sentinel. Without his protection they freely enter her dreams, whisper of her death and feed on her fears and self-doubt. Now, she’s on academic probation, benched from cheerleading, and popping caffeine pills to keep them away. The demons are ruining her life until Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her thoughts. He’s the light in her darkness and she’s the key to his past, but the last thing the demons want is for them to be together. If Aaron remembers his life as Kaemon, Quinn’s dead Sentinel now living inside the stolen body of the boy known as Aaron Collier, their combined power could tip the scales for good. To keep them apart, the demons must convince Quinn that Aaron will turn his back on her, that he’ll confirm her worst fear; that she’s crazy. Quinn must learn to trust her heart before the demons lead her to her death. In the end, it’s her choice: Love or lies, faith or fear, darkness or destiny.

Have a query you’re struggling with? Need fresh eyes? Look to the Hugs and Chocolate community for feedback. Post your query in the comments and lets work together over the next week to make it better. We can all learn from one another.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Craft, Personal Experience, Query, Writing