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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Dreaded Query Letter

Paperback Writer has a wonderful post today on query writing--- what NOT to send to an agent or editor.

Here's an excerpt--

Thinly disguised novel that's really a memoir

Many things can trigger a novel-wrapped memoir, and writers usually go through at least one of them: a dysfunctional family, an unhappy childhood, a wretched adolescence, a lousy marriage, loss of a loved one, a career meltdown and/or a terrible divorce. So if the prominent features of your story and/or your protagonist bear a striking resemblance to you/your life, you've likely gone memoir in your novel.

There is nothing wrong with writing a memoir; I don't particularly care for them but there is a market, mainly celebrity-driven, for them. That said, a memoir is not a novel. Presenting it as a novel probably feels the same way it did to use code in your high school diary so that if your little brother snitched it from your room and picked the tiny lock he still wasn't be able to figure out who Chipmunk, Sassafrass and Mr. Whoopsie were. Don't assume the agent or the reader has to be treated like your little brother.

Recitation of events

Could your query pull double duty as a chapter summary or a synopsis of your novel? If so, you're event-reciting, not pitching. This type of play-by-play query often comes from an unwillingness or an inability on the part of the writer to condense a story into a pitch. A pitch is not a breakdown or a summary of the parts; it's a brief presentation of the whole.

Example: I could tell you I have a front end, a custom modified engine, tires, a chassis, a metallic flake scarlet paint job, a steering wheel, high-grade fuel, leather-upholstered seats, brakes, headlights, a trunk, a license plate and a rearview mirror. Or I could tell you I have a little red sportscar so fast that no cop can catch me. Now, which do you think is more interesting? Which better relates the concept of the object?

Read the rest here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Beware of "Fake" Awards

There is a great post today on the Writer, Be Ware! blog. It's a reminder that not all writing awards are really awards.

Everyone loves an award, right? Awards acknowledge excellence and achievement, raise the profile of the awardee, and garner the respect of peers (that's the theory, anyway). There are plenty of big prestigious awards whose names everyone recognizes, and lots of small, semi-prestigious awards that may be recognizable only within a particular niche or audience, and vast numbers of tiny, all-but-invisible awards that may make you feel good, but will provoke stares of incomprehension if you mention them to someone else.

There are also--you guessed it--vanity awards, where the goal isn't to recognize excellence, but to entice entrants or winners to hand over cash to the awards sponsors.

To read the rest, including examples, visit the blog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


ZZZZZzzzzzz.. . . .. . Got yours lately?

Sleep is a critical element of our health, both physical and mental. Writers, like so many others, often face periods of sleep deprivation or problems. I asked a variety of writers about their sleep habits. Some told me that they just don’t have time to sleep. Between writing, the day job and family responsibilities; sleep becomes a luxury. Others voluntarily give up sleep time in order to write in a quiet environment. And yet some who take the time to rest just can’t get quality sleep. Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time, so how do you know if there’s really a problem?

A sleep disorder is any difficulty with sleep, including:
• difficulty falling or staying asleep,
• difficulty staying awake during the daytime (excessive sleepiness),
• sleeping too much,
• difficulty sleeping during normal sleep hours at nighttime,
• abnormal behaviors during sleep which disrupt sleep, or
• unrefreshing sleep.

Common symptoms include:
Memory Lapses
Trouble staying awake while driving
Being told you look tired
Need caffeine all day long
Performance problems on the job
React slowly
Can’t pay attention, lose interest quickly

Long-term sleep disorders affect 40 million Americans every year. And though there are more than a hundred types, the most common include Narcolepsy, RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), Insomnia and Sleep Apnea.

There are three basic classes of Insomnia, which is very common. Transient is the type that only lasts a few nights, usually due to stress, illness or excitement. Short term Insomnia can last up to three weeks and be due to ongoing stress or grief. Chronic Insomnia may be caused by an underlying illness so a health check up is recommended for those who can’t sleep well for a month or more.
Women are at a higher risk of sleep problems, and it’s estimated 75% of adult women do not get eight hours or more of sleep each night. Hormones play a large part in this, but so do factors like nighttime pain from arthritis, which is higher in women than in men. Pregnancy and menopause are both known for interrupting sleep patterns. Women also are more sensitive to noise disturbance, often from listening for a child during the night. Women who don’t sleep well are at a higher risk for heart disease.
Methods recommended for improving sleep quality include exercising, but not within three hours of bedtime. Warming one’s feet may help, as well as avoiding caffeine, sugar, salt and alcohol before bed. Turning off the late-night television programs can help, as can adjusting the thermostat to a more comfortable temperature.
It has also been documented that one’s bed partner can interfere with sleep patterns—if your spouse tosses and turns, snores or otherwise wakes you up throughout the night, it might be time for him or her to see a doctor. There are medicines now available for dealing with the discomfort of Restless Leg Syndrome, and sleep studies and treatments (including surgery) available for those who snore from Sleep Apnea. Narcolepsy, associated with sudden sleep during the daytime, can also be treated with drugs. offers the following survey results among American adults:
• 93% agreed that sleep loss can impair work performance
• 92% felt that sleep loss can increase one’s risk of injuries
• 90% agreed that not getting enough sleep makes it difficult to get along with others
• 86% believed that sleep deficits can lead to health problems

Risk Factors To Watch for:
A poor sleep environment
Too much daytime napping
Smoking or use of chewing tobacco
Excessive travel, especially changing time zones
Certain illnesses or medications
Being overweight
Working different shifts
Loss of creativity

Daniel J DeNoon of WebMD gives this warning, very alarming for writers:
A sleepy person's brain works harder -- and accomplishes less. A study using real-time, state-of-the-art imaging shows that sleep deprivation has dramatic effects on the brain and how well it performs.
Researchers expected to find only sluggish activity in the brains of healthy young people who took a simple word test after staying awake for 35 hours. They found instead that while parts of the sleep-deprived brains churned with activity during the test, another part of the brain -- the language center -- shut down.
"Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain when you are trying to do high-level [thinking] tasks," study co-author J. Christian Gillin, MD, tells WebMD. "It may have serious consequences both on performance and on the way your brain functions."

As writers we need all the brain function we can muster, and our language center is crucial. If you are not getting the sleep you need, see a doctor and try some of the tips above. I will talk to you again after we all get a good night’s sleep.


***first published in the Spirit Led Writer ezine

Thursday, February 11, 2010

As February 14th Approaches. . . .


February 11, 2010

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
-- 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Love does not focus on me, but on others. Each of these qualities of love is based upon an affectionate, compassionate, and forgiving attitude that regards others as being valuable and not just placing value on me and my desires. No wonder the old saying goes "The middle of sIn is a big I!" When "I" become more important than others and what "I" want and that "I" win is more significant than what someone else truly needs, then "I" have lost my way and do not display the love of Christ.

Friday, February 05, 2010

What I've Learned About Fiction From Golf

You may have noticed that the cover of my latest release features a golf ball. That’s because one of the scenes takes place on a driving range and is based on a real life experience. Personally, I’ve given up trying to learn the game and let my husband go out to the course so I can have quiet reading or writing time.

But over many years of observing the game both in real life and on television, I’ve picked up the following:

In golf, patience is the key. It is a slow sport to play, and can be slowed further by lagging players in front of you. (You can however, speed things up by playing golf on the Wii machine.)

In fiction, patience is also needed. Reading a love story is a slow, unfolding process that makes us wait for the payoff at the end. We also must sometimes wait patiently for the next story in a series. (You can however, sometimes speed things up by ordering your books as downloads for immediate receipt.)

In golf, there is a code of etiquette to be followed. Many rules apply out on the green. It is considered the “gentleman’s sport” for a reason.

In fiction, there are also rules of etiquette for readers like not revealing “spoilers” and ruining the experience for others. And not criticising an author, focusing instead on her work.

In golf, your spouse might become irritated by the amount of time you spend at it.

In fiction, your spouse might become irritated by the amount of time you spend at it.

So in what ways is reading a superior hobby to golf?

--You don’t need to wear plaid pants or a collared shirt to read a book.
--Reading is a year-round sport, regardless of weather.
--You can buy many books for the cost of one typical round of golf.
--You can re-read a scene anytime, but in golf “mulligans” are frowned upon.
--No special equipment is needed to read, unless it’s reading glasses.
--You can’t play golf on the beach or in the tub.
--If you completed grade school, you won’t need special instructors to help you read.
--You can read all alone, without needing to call your buddies.

So send your spouse out to the driving range and curl up on your couch. Tell us, what books are in your TBR (to be read) pile?
And do you play golf?