Monday, August 31, 2009

101 Best Web Sites/Agent Blogs for Writers

Here is another great link from Writer's — the 101 Best Web Sites/Agent Blogs for Writers.


Some Major Elements of a Query Letter

Summarized (but not written) by Jason

For those writers who don’t like reading (shame on you), here is an abbreviated summary from the instructions found at regarding how to write a query letter:

— a single page cover letter that introduces you and your book

— has 3 concise paragraphs:
a.) the hook - a concise, one-sentence tagline that describes the book and generates interest
b.) the mini-synopsis - an intriguing, one-paragraph summary (about 150 words) of the entire book; should have a little more info about your main characters and their conflicts; the conflict of the book should be captured in this paragraph
c.) the author’s biography - keep it short and related to writing

The closing of your query letter should do two things:
1.) thank the agent for his or her time and consideration
2.) if it’s non-fiction, tell the agent you’ve included an outline, table of contents and sample characters for review. (if it’s a fiction book, tell the agent your full manuscript is available upon request, but don’t query any agents until your fiction manuscript is completely finished).

What a Query Letter is NOT:
— Not a resume or a life story
— Not casual or "buddy-buddy" friendly
— Never more than 1 page

I’ve posted this summary to entice you to visit The information above is just to help us get started. The site actually has more “do’s” and “don’ts” under the “How to Write a Query” link.

P.S. For all you fiction-writers, here is an actual agent's invaluable blog called "Query Shark," where writers send her their query letters and she critiques them. It's a great resource.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Response to Jason

From Fred
In answer to question one - Yes. But, fewer words should not be cumbersome. It simply means we must become better writers so we can make the most of the few words we use in a sentence.

Question Two - Determine if you are rewriting or editing. To rewrite is to change the basic thought or theme. To edit is to clean up, but not rewrite, a work. The best way to be our own judge is to move on and come back later. Either write further into your book and put it down and return to the questionable section later. Ask for a second opinion from someone you trust. Remember - it is not broken, don't fix it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Rewriting

by Jason

I've been thinking about this topic, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on rewriting and the revision process, in general. Here's what I've been thinking:

I've been a copy editor for a few years now for various publications and individual writers, and I'm always amazed at how many people unleash their thoughts in a first draft and send it on to the printing press, without reading over what they've written at least once. Don't get me wrong; I never pen anything perfectly, either, but due to the conspicuous nature of their errors, it's obvious these authors have opted not to look over their writing.

As I've considered rewriting — while frequently implementing it in my book thus far — I've found it to be helpful in improving my project significantly, not just the writing itself but the clarity of the concepts I'm trying to convey. And following Strunk and White's fervent plea to "omit needless words" has been a large part of what I consider successful rewriting. Above all, clarity seems to be the most important goal, in my book.

I have two questions for the group:

1.) Have you ever noticed that extremely concise writing that uses a scant economy of words is sometimes cumbersome and unnatural? (One would suspect that fewer words would equal clearer writing, but sometimes it takes me longer to read well-written prose. Have you experienced this, too?)

2.) Do you think it's possible to revise and rewrite too much? (I can just imagine myself rewriting my first page of my book a thousand times to try to get it perfect. At what point do we encounter the law of diminishing returns?)

Myths of Publishing; Building a Bio

Hi guys,

Here are a couple of helpful articles, courtesy of Writer's Digest:


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Real Query Letters that Worked"

In the Sept '09 issue of "Writer's Digest," there are several query letters that "worked." There are also insightful comments beside the letter in yellow boxes. If anyone would like a copy of any of them, please let me know by responding to this post with a comment. (Click on the comment link below to indicate as much.) I'll copy them and bring them to the next meeting. The charge for copies is 10 cents per page. The following list indicates the genres addressed in these query letters:

Women's Fiction
Young Adult
Mainstream Fiction


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Re: Patricia Harman Lecture

From Fred

Hi All

Did you ever force yourself to so something even though you didn't feel like doing.?

That happened to me Monday when I went to Moundsville to hear author Patricia Harman talk about her book and about the publishing business.

I did not want to go. Too tired. Hungry. Wasn't interested in hearing about women's health issues. Probably nothing there for me.

Pass the humble pie, please.

Patricia Harman was great. She projected such a sweet spirit and a total passion for her book.

She hit on some interesting talking points that confirmed some things I already know and some things I was glad to learn.

* Writing a query letter is harder than writing a book.

* A non fiction book proposal should be about 100 pages (that includes three chapters of book or about one-half)

* You may want to hire a writing coach to help with your proposal.

* Most books today are 100,000 words.

* Expect lots of editing from more than one editor. She had to remove some original chapters and replace them with new ones.

* She had 85 rejections before getting published.

Finally - she said anyone seeking an agent should go to

Monday, August 24, 2009

Find Your Corner

"As a rule, writers should be treated like rubber plants — lightly pruned, occasionally watered, but basically left to do their own thing in a corner, away from direct sunlight."
Anthony Lane,
film critic for
The New Yorker

By the way, did anyone get a chance to talk with that author at the Marshall County Library this evening? If so, do tell, please.

From Fred

Let's all give Jason a big ATTABOY for putting this site together. Great Job.

It was great meeting all of you. I am looking for things to happen with this group.

If You Have a Question About Leaving Comments

Just a quick clarification ... if you'd like to post a comment and you're not already logged in to this blog, you simply use the same username and password that I e-mailed to you for logging in. (I won't reiterate those here, for obvious reasons, but if you've forgotten them, just send me an e-mail.)

Otherwise, if you're already logged in to the blog itself, then it will let you post a comment without any additional logging-in process.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Helpful Tip: Little Notebook

by Jason

This is probably a no-brainer for everyone else, but just in case ...

Something that has helped me immensely with writing my book is to always carry one of those little, 3x5 memo pad notebooks around with me (along with a pen). More often than not, ideas — and I mean really good ideas — will pop into my head when I'm out and about, working through my day.

I used to think I'd remember all my neat ideas, but I regret to admit that I've forgotten lots of great stuff before I started carrying my notebook. Now, that little notebook goes everywhere I go, and if "flashes of genius" suddenly illuminate my mind, I quickly jot them down, wherever I am, and then continue about my day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NOTES: First Meeting, 8-20-09

Posted by Jason

— Purpose of this Organization:

To offer support and encouragement to local, fellow writers, as well as seeking to learn more about the business of writing and specifically, how to get published.

— Writing a book is an art form that's subject to interpretation; getting published is a science, with strictly defined rules. — Fred

— In the book industry, money always flows to the writer, not from the writer.

— When trying to publish FICTION, these are roughly the steps:

a.) write the book

b.) send a query letter to an agent

c.) if agent approves, send a synopsis and three chapters

d.) send to the publisher

(First-time authors typically get about $10,000.)

— When trying to publish NONFICTION, these are roughly the steps:

a.) write the book proposal first (even before writing the book)

b.) write a query letter to agent

c.) if approved, then send proposal

d.) the proposal should be a complete marketing plan for your book; it’s like a business plan — you have to sell your book, because making money is always the bottom line; try to know what they’re looking for, before you ever send your proposal

— Platform — an explanation of your expertise, or why YOU should be the one to write this book

— Genre: You should be able to assign your book to a specific genre (ex. biography) on bookstore shelves

— Hook (or “Elevator Pitch”) — We should be able to accurately describe our book in 25 words or less — and sell it! This should be short enough to tell your agent what it’s about before the elevator gets to the next floor.

— A Query Letter — tells a little more in-depth what the book is about; note any previous publishing experience in your query letter; this adds to your platform and helps define who you are

— Getting published is possible; distribution is much more difficult

— agents seem to be “the gatekeepers”

— the length of a typical novel is about 80,000 words, but really, the length should be “as long as it takes,” no more, no less

— Fred recommends attending the writers’ conferences; you get a 10-min. pitch with an agent

— Getting published will mean submitting to an agent, to critiquing and to an editor

— Every Tuesday, the Ohio County Public Library hosts “Lunch With Books” at noon, where authors often come

— We are considering a possible book-sharing/borrowing program among our group members

— The 5 W’s and H:







— Once writers get published and distributed, how can they get customers to pick up their books, particularly if they don’t have the financial, advertising muscle backing them?

— Talk to an Author in Moundsville:

Best-selling author Patricia Harman will be presenting a multi-faceted program at 6 p.m. Monday at the Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library, 700 Fifth St. Her main topic will be the impact of stress on family health, but she’ll also discuss her work as a nurse-midwife, her recent book, and the writing and publishing process. Anyone interested in writing and publishing their own work will find Harman’s discussion of her experience with the process very useful. The library program is free and open to the public. For more information about the author and memoir, including reviews and an excerpt, visit