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Punctuation for Writers

Tips & advice for writers of fiction and creative non-fiction Punctuation matters. Punctuation tells the reader how to read the words you have on the page: where to put the pauses, how to make sense of your sentences. It’s not too much to say that bad punctuation will kill a book. It’ll get rejected by agents and readers alike. Trying to sell a badly punctuated manuscript is like going on a date wearing last week’s jogging pants. The underlying problem is the same in both cases. The badly punctuated manuscript and the dirty jogging bottoms both say, “I don’t care.” I don’t care about you, my hot date. I don’t care about you, my precious reader. Any sane date will just make their excuses and leave. A reader will do the same – and quite right too. So here goes with a quick guide to the major punctuation marks. In each case, we’ll talk about: The basic ruleThe most common punctuation errors that writers makeMore advanced ways to use the tool Most of you reading this will know the basic rules. Even so, it’s likely that you’ll be committing at least some of the errors some of the time. (A few of them are very common indeed.) And pretty much everyone will get at least something from thinking about how to use punctuation marks in a more sophisticated, writerly way. Oh, and the images that are scattered through this blog post? Those free-flowing floral designs are what beautifully punctuated text looks like. Fluid, but ordered. Mobile, yet tidy. That’s what we’re after. The Period, Or Full Stop (.) OK, you know when to use this little beast. You use it at the end of sentences, so long as those sentences aren’t questions or exclamations (in which case you’d use the “?” or “!” instead.) Easy, right? The Most Common Error One of the most prevalent errors in manuscripts written by first time writers is the so-called run-on sentence. It looks something like this: She was a breath of fresh air in our little town, she came into school on her first day with a bunch of garden flowers for the teacher and home-made candy for us, her schoolmates, it should have looked cheesy, but we fell in love with her on the spot. The error here is simple. The writer is using commas (“,”) where they should be using periods. The result is like someone just gabbling in your face, yadda-yadda-yadda, without giving you a chance to draw breath or reflect. The solution is simple. You chop the sentence up with periods, to produce this: She was a breath of fresh air in our little town. She came into school on her first day with a bunch of garden flowers for the teacher and home-made candy for us, her schoolmates. It should have looked cheesy, but we fell in love with her on the spot. Phew! That’s a mile better already. Notice that there’s still a comma dividing two of the sentences (“It should have looked cheesy” and “we fell in love with her.”) The grammar-reason why that comma is OK is that you have “but” – a conjunction, a connector word – joining the two sentences. In a way, though, I’d prefer you to forget about the grammar and just listen to the rhythms. Say the first snippet out loud, then the second one. If it feels right, it is right. That’s pretty much all the grammar you are ever going to need. More Advanced Ways To Use The Tool Back at school, you were probably told to avoid sentence fragments – the name given to sentences that lack a main verb. (Like this one, for example.) That’s rather old-fashioned advice in some ways, and it’s certainly unhelpful advice to offer when it comes to writing fiction or creative non-fiction. Take my own work. My narrator is jerky, tough, awkward, abrupt. Her voice is all those things too, and the consequence is that her prose makes a lot of use of sentence fragments. For instance: There’s a woman at the wheel. Forties, maybe. Blonde. Shoulder-length hair held back in a grip. Blue woollen coat worn over a dark jumper.I kick the door. Hard. I’m wearing boots and kick hard enough to dent the panel. Pretty clearly here, the periods are dividing my language up into units of meaning, not into sentences. The words Blonde and Hard are just words, after all. They’re not even attempting to be complete sentences. Equally clearly, my narrator’s language forces that kind of punctuation on the manuscript. If you wanted to follow the “period = end of sentence” rule, you’d have to rewrite the text so it looked something like this: There’s a woman at the wheel. She is in her forties, maybe. Her blonde, shoulder-length hair is held back in a grip. She wears a blue woollen coat worn over a dark jumper. [and so on] That’s not just differently punctuated. It has a different tone, a different mood. It’s perfectly fine writing … but it’s not what I wanted. The “correct” punctuation ends up destroying the voice I worked hard to create. As a rough, rough guide, literary fiction will tend to have relatively few sentence fragments, while crime thrillers and the like will have many more. But fiction is much more supple than that general rule suggests. So yes, my character is tough. Yes, she uses lots of sentences fragments in approved noir style. But she also reflects on philosophy, quotes poetry, introspects extensive, and so on. In the end, you build from the character to the voice to the punctuation. It makes no sense to try building the other way. The Exclamation Mark (!) An exclamation mark (or point) marks an exclamation, denotes shouting, or otherwise gives emphasis to a sentence. It’s like a shouty form of a period. But watch out! You think you know how to use the exclamation mark, but … The Most Common Error The most common error is to use the exclamation mark! It’s fine in emails. It’s OK-ish in blog posts. But in novels? Avoid it. As Scott Fitzgerald remarked, “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.” It’s like you’re trying to make your punctuation compensate for a failure of your actual writing. If you want a rough rule of thumb, you can use one or maximum two exclamation marks per 100,000 words of prose. If you have zero, that’s just fine. And never, ever have a double or treble exclamation mark in your text. What’s fine on Twitter, looks just awful on the printed page. More Advanced Ways To (Not) Use The Tool So if I (like most pro authors) hate the exclamation mark, what do you do instead? After all, there may be occasions where you feel your work actually needs the emphasis. But consider these alternatives: #1 “Go get it.”#2 “Go get it!”#3 “Go get it,” he ordered her, sharply. Those options are ranked in approximate order of shoutiness. The first option doesn’t feel especially emphatic. The addition of the exclamation mark adds a little force. The third option adds even more, via a highly coloured verb and adverb combo. But neither of the last two options is great. And the issue here is simply this: the actual bit of underlying dialogue is fairly colourless, and that’s not going to alter, no matter how many toppings you put on. In other words, if you started out with option #1 and found yourself thinking, “Hmm, this feels a little bland, so let’s get out the heavy-duty punctuation,” that should be a signal that you need to rewrite things. So a better option than either #1, #2 or #3 above would be: #4 “Go get it. Get it now. Give it to me. Never take it again.” You’re not using anything more than a common old period there, and you’re not resorting to ordering sharply, yelling loudly, yodelling wildly or exclaiming defiantly. But because your dialogue is now unmistakeably emphatic, it’s fine on its own. If the burger tastes great, you don’t need the relish. The Ellipsis (…) An ellipsis is a bit of a slippery brute. What it does is mark the fact that some words are missing. So, in dialogue, for example, people will often trail off, rather than actually complete a sentence. That much is easy – but how do you actually write it? Three dots is pretty much universal, but do you have spaces between them? Do you have a space before and after the ellipsis? And if you have the ellipsis at the start of a sentence, do you have a period (to denote the end of the previous sentence), then a space, then the ellipsis? That option sounds technically correct, but also rather fussy. The good news for you is that none of this really matters. Different style authorities advise different things, with some variation between British and American usage. And in the end, who really cares? Your editor won’t. Your agent won’t. Your reader won’t. It’s just not a big deal. I’d suggest, in general, that you use three dots without spacing in between, but with a space before and after. Like so: “Oh, Jen, if you really think that, then we should … I mean, maybe this was never meant to be.” The Most Common Error As with exclamation marks, the primary error is to overuse these little beasts. What works fine in an email, quickly looks annoying on the printed page. But whereas I’d advise you to hunt the exclamation mark almost to extinction, you can let the ellipsis breathe, just a little. One ellipsis per chapter is probably too many, but you’d have to be quite a fussy ready to object to half a dozen, or even a dozen, over the course of a full length novel. More Advanced Ways To Use The Tool As with the exclamation mark, the best way to use the ellipsis is to let it nudge you into querying your own writing. If you feel yourself wanting to use the ellipsis, just check that it’s not your writing that needs to alter. In nine out of ten cases, adjusting your text will be a better option than using the ellipsis. The Semi-Colon ( ; ) The semi-colon is a divider, the way commas and periods are dividers. The comma is the lightest of these in weight: it inserts the shortest of pauses. The period inserts the maximum pause. The semi-colon lives somewhere in between. Here’s an example of all three in action: It never normally rained, but the weather that day was awful.(comma = minimal pause)It never normally rained; my mother didn’t even own an umbrella(semi-colon = mid-weight pause)It never normally rained. That day, though, there was a deluge.(period = strongest pause) And look: you can live without the semi-colon completely. Personally, I quite like semi-colons, but my narrator, Fiona Griffiths, never uses them, so in about 750,000 words of published Fiona Griffiths’ novels, there’s only one semi-colon – and that enters the text via a direct quote from Wikipedia. Short message: if the semi-colon scares you, it’s fine to leave it well alone. The Most Common Error There are no common errors with semi-colons, except maybe overuse by people thinking they’re fancy. More Advanced Ways To Use The Tool Thinking of semi-colons as a middle-weight pause is technically correct, but it misses something, nevertheless. A better way to conceive of the mark is this: You need a semi-colon when you have two sentences, and the second one corrects or modifies the meaning of the first. So take those examples above. We used a semi-colon in this context: It never normally rained; my mother didn’t even own an umbrella. The first sentence is, in effect, adjusted by the second. The semi-colon tells us to read the second sentence as a kind of comment on the first one: “look, here’s just how much it never rained.” Or, if you want a slightly more grown-up example, here’s William Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury: Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. But you can get too hung up on these things. Arguably, sentences that speak about each other shouldn’t need any punctuation to get their point across. The text itself should handle the communication just fine. So there’ll be plenty of writers (including my narrator) who’d agree with Kurt Vonnegut’s lesson in creative writing: First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. And who cares if you’ve been to college, right? Parenthesis Brackets () | Dashes – – | Commas ,, There are three types of parenthesis you can use. They are: Commas: The comma, always a useful creature, can be used to separate one clause from the rest.Dashes: The dash – a more forceful beast – can be used in much the same way.Brackets: The bracket (perfectly fine in non-fiction) is relatively rare in fiction. But these three are not equivalent, and not equally common. I just opened up my Word document that contains the entire Fiona Griffiths series, and checked to see how many of each punctuation mark I used. In about 650,000 words of text, I used: 39,000 commas, of which, admittedly, many thousand wouldn’t be parenthetical.5,000 dashes, though most of these were actually hyphens, as in “short-tempered”. So I’m going to guess maybe only 1,000 actual dashes.100 brackets, of which many were things like “in Paragraph 22(c)”, where the use of the bracket isn’t really a parenthesis in the normal way. The Most Common Error There are two common errors when it comes to parenthesis. The first error is not to use anything to mark off a clause from the rest of a sentence resulting in (often, but not always) a sentence that is just plain hard to read. For example: The comma always a useful creature can be used to separate one clause from the rest. Tucking commas in around the useful-creature clause makes the meaning pop right out. The second error is kind of the opposite. It’s as though writers get worried that commas aren’t emphatic enough, so they start clamping their text inside brackets, like this: She couldn’t get enough of him (understandable, given her past), so she tried to find reasons why he couldn’t leave. And that feels heavy-handed. A simple rewrite releases the sentence and lets it breathe: Understandably, given her tangled past, she couldn’t get enough of him and she tried to find reasons why he couldn’t leave. There’s more flow there. Less sense of an author forcing information at you. The no-brackets alternative seems much more natural to fiction. The with-brackets version better suited to the information-delivery task of non-fiction. More Advanced Ways To Use Parenthesis The real trick with parenthesis – and with commas particularly – is to learn to feel the weight of a sentence. In most cases, commas will cover your parenthetical needs. If you need to rewrite something to make it work, then rewrite it. If you need the greater weight of dashes, then go for it, but recognise that you are, in a small way, pulling on the handbrake mid-sentence. If that’s what you want, fine. In many cases, there’ll be better options. Oh, and though I personally never read my text out loud, lots of authors swear by it – and any hiccups or awkwardness as you read is a huge clue that your punctuation or your text (or both) are at fault. Hyphens And Dashes The hyphen, the en dash, and the em dash We can’t quite leave a post about punctuation without talking about the various dashes available to you. Specifics in one second, but first, a public annoucement: The specifics don’t really matter. Yes, a lot of writers (especially those college-educated brutes that got Vonnegut all riled up) care a lot about their en dashes and their em dashes. But if you’ve never spent a moment caring about them in the past, you don’t have to worry that you’ve been doing something very wrong. You haven’t. Any “errors” on this scale will bother almost nobody – neither readers, nor agents. So, here’s what hyphens and dashes are and how to use them. The Hyphen The hyphen is on your keyboard as a minus sign. You use it to connect words, as for example: The hot-headed wood-cutter tip-toed past the one-eyed she-wolf. Apart from a slight anxiety about whether a hyphen is needed in a particular context (is it woodcutter or wood-cutter?), it’s hard to get these little fellows wrong. Oh, and although everyone will have a house-style defining when to use hyphens, everyone’s style guide will be a bit different, so there’s often not a clear right and wrong here anyway. The En Dash The en dash is so called because it is a dash approximately the same width as the letter N. And it doesn’t live on your keyboard anywhere: you have to give it life and breath all by yourself. You do this by hitting Ctrl and the minus sign at the same time, to give yourself something that looks like this: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) As that example suggests, it’s used mostly for dates, or for things that feel much the same, for example: Washington–New York (in the context of a flight timetable, for example.) The Em Dash The em dash is so called because … well, you’re going to have to guess which letter-width it’s named after. You create this little critter in Word by hitting Ctrl-Alt-minus. And the em dash performs the following functions: It marks an interruption in dialogue.“The buried treasure,” he said, as he lay dying, “the treasure can be found just to the right of the old—”It marks a parenthesis in the middle of a sentence.The em dash—more forceful than commas—marks out a parenthesis in the middle of a sentence.But it can also mark out a parenthesis at the end of a sentence.He was allergic to fruit, sunshine, exercise and soap—or so he always insisted.(The “so he always insisted” part is the parenthesis here. If you were using brackets, that whole end chunk would be enclosed in brackets.)It can be used as a slightly informal colon.The result of that informal colon—often a little hint of comedy, or something of a “ta-daa” quality.It marks deleted or redacted words.The accuser, Ms — —, struck a defiant tone in court. Best practice is generally to use the em dash without a space before or after, but that’s one of those things that doesn’t actually matter. Newspapers tend to use spaces and British usage is much more tolerant of spacing and lots of people just don’t know the rules anyway. That’s it from me. Beautiful punctuation is often a sign of careful writing and a beautifully readable book. If you’re new to the site, don’t forget to check out the Garden of Delights that is a Jericho Writers membership. If you’re serious about writing, we’d love to have you join us. More here. About The Author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. More about us.
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Is there a market for poetry writing?

The first thing to ask about the poetry market: does it exist? Few make money from poetry. Seamus Heaney may have done, but he had a Nobel Prize. There is also, of course, the rise of the Instagram poets like Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, Atticus, and so on. Here’s what you need to know. Selling Beauty Poetry remains a niche market. Even large bookshops will typically just sell acknowledged classics, academic anthologies, and a few books by today’s most famous poets. Few poets ever reach this level. More important for beginning writers are the specialist poetry magazines and poetry presses, the heart of the poetry scene. A collection of poetry might well only sell a few hundred copies. Few will make a profit. Poets themselves seldom make any money from their work. People who buy these books are poetry aficionados and will buy these books from ads in poetry magazines, from poetry festivals, etc. Getting Published It may be easier to walk across hot coals than to become a published poet. It’s fine to write poetry for yourself and friends, but suppose you really want to get published. What then? Agents rarely accept poetry submissions, and big publishing houses are interested in making money. Your ultimate aim should really be to interest the smaller poetry presses. Even if you aspired to be an ‘Instapoet’, it really is better to know if your poetry resonates with readers at the most critical levels, before you go and post online. In nearly all cases, these presses will only pick up a new poet if they have a track record of publication in the poetry magazines. As a rule, you should aim to have had 6-8 individual poems published in magazines before it makes sense to try and publish a collection. So start submitting good quality work as soon as you can. Poetry Magazines Some of our favourite magazines are The Rialto, The North, New Writer, Ambit, and Anon – but there are zillions of others. For a good place to browse go to Poetry Library, or The Poetry Kit. All magazines have their own submissions procedures, but as a rule, you should send out no more than half a dozen poems with a stamped addressed envelope for a response. It’s competitive getting accepted, so prepare for rejections before you get anywhere, and don’t expect speed either. Three months to get a response is normal. If and when you get 6-8 poems accepted by these, then is the time to start approaching publishers. Self-Publishing There is one other option, which is self-publication. This isn’t a fast-track way to get well-known, to make money, to get your work into bookshops, or anything else. It could lead to more, but it is a way to get bound copies of your work for you to distribute (or sell) to families and friends, at least. The easiest route for most poets is simply to go to your local printer. Get quotes for printing and binding copies of your work, and go with the best. This won’t be too expensive, and you won’t be ripped off. Beware of any ‘publisher’ advertising online for your work. Real publishers don’t solicit work. Anyone who wants you to pay to publish your work will print the work, but they will not publish it in any normal sense. Your work will not appear in bookshops. You will not make money from it. And there are lots of bandits out there. (You have been warned.) Who knows, though? Rupi Kaur self-published her poetry. Now Milk and Honey is published by Andrews McNeel. Good luck. Poetry home | Poetry editors |Poetry Tips | Poetry Reading
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Read a Sample Literary Agent Query Letter (with Hints + Tips)

that literary agents will love!Sample letter + template included You want to know what a great query letter to literary agents should look like? We’re going to show you a perfect sample letter in a moment. But we’re also going to figure out what your query letter needs to do – and how you’re going to write it. This blog post will give you everything you need – and I promise that if you are talented enough to write a book, you are EASILY capable of writing a strong, confident query letter. OK. We’ll get stuck in in one second. But I should probably tell you that I am a real author describing a real book. The query letter below pretends that this book is a first novel and I have no track record in the industry. Tiny digression: this isn’t a complete guide to getting your book published. You can get that here. Nor is it a full guide to getting an agent – more info here, and here.) Write A Query Letter In 3 Easy Steps: Introductory sentence – include your purpose for writing (you’re seeking representation!) book title, wordcount, genre.1-2 paragraphs about your book – what your book’s about and why a reader will love it.A brief note about You – who you are and why you wrote the book. Here’s What A Query Letter Should Look Like Remember that your query letter needs to accomplish the following goals: Introduce the purpose of your letter (ie: to secure representation).To define in a very concise way the manuscript that you’ve written (ie: title, genre, word count)To introduce your work at slightly more length – so you say what it is (setting / setup / premise / main character)To give a sense of the emotional mood of your work – what is the emotional payoff for the reader?To give a hint of your book’s USP or angleTo say something – not much – about you We’ll say more about all that shortly. But first up, here’s a query letter of a sort that would make any sane agent want to start reading the manuscript in question: Dear Agent NameI’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words.The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation.Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses?I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series.I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you.Yours,Harry Bingham Simple right? And you can do it, no? Here’s that query letter again with my comments highlighted in bold: I’m writing to seek representation [the purpose of you getting in touch] for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words. [title, genre, word count – all defined fast and clearly.]The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. [This sets up the basic premise of the crime story. Already, the agent has the basic co-ordinates she needs to navigate.] New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Grifffiths is assigned to the investigation. [Introduce main character – clearly and succinctly.]Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses? [This hints nicely at the book’s mood and USP. It starts to suggest the emotional payoff – a mystery to do with the book’s central character.]I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. [A line or two about me. Confirmation that I understand I’m writing a series – an important touch for this kind of fiction.]I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you. [Wrap it up. The whole letter easily fits onto one page. And yes, I know you’ll be sending an email, but you know what I mean.] Now you know what you’re doing, we’ll get into a slightly more specific analysis. What To Include In Your Query Letter All the letter must do is: Give a very brief 1-sentence summary of the book and your purpose in writing itA somewhat longer, 1-2 paragraph, introduction to the book. (Not a full-scale plot summary, that’s for the synopsis).A brief introduction to you.Not be badly written. That’s it. If you can write a novel, you can write that letter. And each of those elements is simple enough. The 1 sentence summary You need to say why you’re writing. (You’re seeking representation, right? So say so.)You need to give the title of your book, either underlined or (better) in italics, please.You need to give the word count of your book, rounded to the nearest 5,000 words. (And one word of advice: just be sure your word count is approximately right for the market. Advice here.)You need to give the approximate genre or territory of your book. If you do those things, the agent can instantly understand what you want and what you’re offering. You will also, by the way, prove yourself to be a swift, professional writer. The 1-2 paragraph introduction to the book First, it’s important to say what this is not. You are not writing a back-of-book blurb. But nor are you writing a detailed outline of your story. (That’ll come in the form of your synopsis – more synopsis help right here.) What you are doing is explaining what your book is and why a reader will feel compelled to read it. That ‘what’ element will typically be a matter of presenting some facts. You need to give some more information about your settings, your premise, your characters and so on. You don’t need to be as salesy as a cover blurb, and you don’t need to be as dry as a synopsis. It’s almost as though you were chatting to your best friend and telling her about the book you’ve just been reading. The ‘why’ element is equally crucial. Here, you are conveying something about emotions. What is a reader going to feel as they read the book? What kind of atmosphere will they inhabit? What kind of emotional payoff or challenge is likely? A brief introduction to you, the author About youLuckily, agents don’t care too much about you. Nor should they. They should care about the book, and only the book. That’s a fine, honest, meritocratic approach. May the best book win! That said, agents are obviously curious about the person behind the manuscript. So tell them something about yourself. It’s fine to be human here, rather than resume-style formal. It’s also OK to be quite brief. For example: “I am a 41-year-old mother, with three children, two dogs, one husband, and the finest vegetable garden in the southwest.” Why you wrote the bookIf there is a real connection between who you are (a shrimp fisher, let’s say) and the book you’ve written (something to do with the sea and fishing) then it’s worth another sentence or two to tease that out a bit. But don’t feel compelled to do that. In my case, I wrote a crime novel, just because I wanted to write one. I’m not a cop or ex-cop. I have no forensics expertise. I have no legal expertise. Or anything else relevant. And that doesn’t matter, of course – what matters is the quality of the book. So if you have something good to say, say it. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing and don’t worry about it. Your previous writing historyIf you have some real background as a writer, then do say so. For example, you might have written a textbook or similar on a topic relevant to your own professional area. Or you might have won or been shortlisted for a major short story prize. Or perhaps you work as a journalist or copywriter. Or something similar. If anything like that is the case, then do say so. But if it’s not – don’t worry! We’ve seen a lot of agent query letters that say things like “I haven’t had much writing experience, but my English teacher always used to say that I would be a writer one day . . .” And, you know what? It just sounds feeble. So don’t say it. Agents know that most slushpile submissions will be by complete newbie authors. And that’s fine. JK Rowling was a newbie once . . . Writing a series?If you are writing a series, then you should say so, much as I did in that sample letter above. Agents will like the fact that you recognise the series potential of your work and that you are committed to taking the steps needed to develop it. What you don’t want to do, is sound overly rigid or arrogant. (“I have completed the first four novels in my Lords of the Silver Sword series, and have got complete chapter outlines for the next 11 titles. I am looking for a publisher who will commit fully to the series.” — if you write something like that, agents are likely to reject you out of hand.) How long should your query letter be? Your overall letter should not run to more than one page. (Except that non-fiction and literary authors can give themselves maybe a page and a half). And that’s it. We can help YOU get published.Did you know, we have a complete course on getting published? The course covers absolutely everything you need to know: how to prepare your manuscript, how to find agents, how to compile your shortlist, how to write your query letter and synopsis – and much, much more besides.That course is quite expensive to buy . . . so don’t buy it. The course is available completely free to members of Jericho Writers. Not just that course. You get our Agent Match tool for finding literary agents. You get our awesome How To Write course. Plus our members get regular opportunities to pitch their work live online to a panel of literary agents.Sounds good, doesn’t it? So hop over here and find out more about joining us. Query Letters: The Exceptions OK, there are a few exceptions to the above rules. Of those, the two most important ones you need to know about are: You Are Writing Literary Fiction If you are writing genuinely high end literary fiction, agents will want you to strut a little, even in your query letter. So if you were writing about (Oh, I dunno) a fictional nun in 14th century Florence, you might talk a bit about the themes of your work and what inspired you to pick up this story. This kind of thing: “I got the idea for this story, while working as a game warden one winter on the Hebridean island of Macvity. I was all alone and with a deeply unreliable internet connection. It occurred to me that my solitary life had its religious aspect and I became very interested in female monasticism. Blah, yadda, yadda, blah.” (Sorry for the blahs, but personally I like books that have corpses in them.) The idea of this kind of approach is that you are selling the book (its themes, its resonances), but also you’re selling yourself – you’re showing that you can walk the talk as a literary writer. You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have A Remarkable Platform Let’s say you are writing a cookbook and you have a couple of million people who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Or you are writing a book about motorcycle repair and you have a motorbike-themed blog with 250,000 monthly readers. In those cases, you have to delineate your platform in enough detail to convince an agent (and ultimately a publisher) that you are the right person to write this manuscript. In those cases, then your query letter does need to outline your platform in sufficient detail. You may even want to kick that outline over into a separate document. However you handle it, the “one page query letter” rule can safely be binned. Your prospective agent wants to know what kind of platform you can supply – so tell her. Oh yes: and having a website is not a platform. Having 10,000 followers on Twitter is impressive, but means nothing in the context of national or international marketing. In short: if you are going to make a big deal of your platform, your platform itself needs to be a big deal. That means having six- or seven-figure numbers to boast about. Nothing else will really cut it. You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have Extraordinary Authority Much the same goes if you are (let’s say) writing a book of popular psychology and (like Daniel Kahnemann) just happen to have a Nobel Prize to wave around. If you bring amazing authority to a topic, then you need to cover that, either in your query letter or a separate bio. Again, the one page rule just doesn’t apply. What To Do If You Don’t Hear Back From Literary Agents So. Let’s say you’ve got a shortlist of agents. You’ve checked those agents’ websites for their specific submission requirements – probably opening chapters + query letter + synopsis. You use our query letter sample and write your own perfect query letter. You avoid any weak language, misspellings or grammatical howlers, of course. You use our advice to put together your synopsis (advice right here.) You don’t spend too long on writing the synopsis either, because if you use our techniques, that process is simplicity itself. You read the opening chunk of your manuscript one last time – and follow our simple rules on manuscript formatting. And then – well, you send your stuff off. You light some candles, pray to your favourite saints, tie a black cat into a knot and throw a mirror over a ladder. (Or under it? Or something to do with a wishing well? I’m not sure. Superstition isn’t my strong suit.) Anyway. You get your stuff out to at least 6 agents and preferably more like 10-12. You wait an unfeasibly long amount of time – but let’s say 6-8 weeks as a rough guide. What happens next? Well. Rejections do happen, and are likely to happen even if you’ve written a great book. (Because agents have their hands full. Or just like a different sort of thing. Or have an author who is too directly competitive. Or anything else. It’s not always about you or your book.) But if you send your material out to 10-12 agents, and find yourself being rejected, then you have to ask yourself: Am I being rejected because I’ve chosen the wrong agents?Am I being rejected because my query letter / synopsis are poor?Am I being rejected because my book isn’t up to scratch? Truthfully? The third of these issues is by far the most common. If you’ve written a great book, and a rubbish query letter, you can still find an agent. The other way around? Never. If you are confident that you’ve gone to the right agents, and have been rejected by 10+ people (or heard nothing after 8 weeks, which amonts to the exact same thing), then the probable truth is that your book is not yet strong enough for commercial publication. And, you know what? That’s not a big deal. All books start out bad. Then they get better. So getting rejected is really just a signal that you still have further to travel down that road. Remember that getting third party editorial advice is the standard way of improving your work. We offer outstanding editorial help and you can read all about it here. Alternatively, join the Jericho Writers family, and you can get a ton of help absolutely free within your membership. Free courses on How To Write. Free courses on Getting Published. Free access to AgentMatch. And so much more. Find out more here. Happy writing, and good luck! About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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How to write a memoir

We get loads of enquiries from writers wanting to write their own life story. Sometimes it’s just a personal project. Sometimes it’s for friends and family. Sometimes it’s intended for commercial publication. But the question we’re asked is always the same. Where do I start? That’s an easy one. Follow the rules below. 1: Tend Your Expectations Writing your life story down is massively worth doing, but please don’t think that it’s easy to get published. It’s not, if you’re after commercial publication. Only the best stories will get taken on by literary agents and publishers, and only then if they are really well written and well told. Of course, you can always self-publish, too. 2: Keep It Simple Many memoirs fail because they try to over-complicate. Keep it very simple, but be sure to do the simple things well. That means: Start at the beginning and move forwards chronologically from there. (If you’re not doing this, have a good reason, and be talented at it.)Keep the reader in your shoes. Talk about what you saw, what you did, what you felt. Stay in the present moment of your story.Don’t digress.Don’t tell your story in diary form, unless you keep a journal as compelling as Sylvia Plath’s. A diary is a very stop-start type of experience. You need to write a flowing narrative that keeps the reader engrossed.Don’t lecture.Remember to stay descriptive. You may remember what Heathrow looked like in the 1950s, but most of us don’t, so tell us. That’s why we’re reading your book. 3: Research Research the market. Find out how professional, published memoirs are written. See how those writers handle the things you need to deal with. One book we recommend you look at is Please Don’t Make me Go by John Fenton. We recommend this for two reasons. One: we worked on it with John, so we’re fond of it. Two: it’s a masterclass in memoir writing. Very simple, but very, very good. Other memoirs of note might be Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Nafisi Azar, or Where am I now by Mara Wilson. Look at these and other memoirs you like and ask yourself what all these have in common. It could be a poignant insight into off-piste topics (Mara Wilson’s musings as a former child star turned writer), or a knack for colouring the ordinary to make it unusual, compelling (Jennifer Worth’s years as a midwife in London’s East End). There may be other great, well-written memoirs from celebrities you like. What Happened by Hilary Rodham Clinton might be a compelling memoir, but a readership was already in place for her. Publishers would have considered this (before looking at a manuscript) when offering her a book deal, so try to pick out books from relatively unknown writers (or unknown before publication) wherever you can when researching the market. Also, do get a proper idea of length. For commercial publication, and to have a chance with a literary agent, you’ll probably want to produce a manuscript of between 70,000 and 100,000 words. If you are much longer or much shorter than that, you can pretty much forget about publication almost irrespective of content. Finally, although you are writing about your own life, you may well find that some research really does wonders for what you are talking about. Let’s say you were working in Iranian oil fields in the 1950s. You’ll remember a lot, but you’ll have forgotten things, too. The more you can research that time, the more you may spark your memory. 4: Take Care With Your Style If you want to grip a reader, to make sure that your words and your story hold the attention, then you must take a lot of care with your style. That means you can’t just write as you speak. It means you need to get in the habit of challenging yourself to write clearly, forcefully, visually, so the reader can see exactly what you are telling them. For more tips on good writing, please check tips on prose style. 5: Seek Feedback Once you’re properly stuck into your project, why not come to us with the first 10,000 words or so? That’s far enough into it that we can give you detailed advice on what is and isn’t working in your writing, and how to improve where needed. The advice will cost, but for a project as important as this, it can be worth the investment. Alternatively, if you prefer to plough through and come to us with a complete manuscript, we’d be delighted to work with that, too. We’ll tell you whether your writing is the sort that a literary agent or publisher might be interested in. If it is, then we can advise on next steps regarding agents. 6: Enjoy Don’t let writing your life story become anything but a pleasure and a joy. This is your story. Enjoy telling it and be proud of it. You deserve it. Your Life Story If you’ve come through to this page, you’ve perhaps been through challenging times and have a story to tell. As far as publishing that story goes, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the market for inspirational true life stories (also called inspirational memoirs) is still fairly hot. The bad news – you guessed it – is that competition is intense and only the best manuscripts are taken on by literary agents. If you have a story to tell, please ask yourself these questions first: How will you feel if your story never gets published, or even accepted by a literary agent?How will you feel about commercializing your story?Can you tell your story in an emotive and unique way to connect with readers?How will you feel about doing PR and other publicity work? If your responses to these questions are negative, then ponder before going any further. If your answer is that you still want to go ahead, then read on. Cathy Glass Shares Her Tips Cathy Glass is bestselling author of seventeen books. True life stories, or inspirational memoirs as they are also known, have enjoyed so much success in the last ten years that they have become a genre in their own right, often separate from biography. My own first book Damaged, in which I told the story of a child I fostered, spent three months at the top of the bestseller charts. Since then Please Don’t Take My Baby, and Will You Love Me? have also been at number one, with all my other fostering stories going into the Top 10 for weeks. To date, I have sold millions copies of my books around the world, and they have been translated into ten languages. Is there a formula for writing memoirs like there is for Mills and Boon romance? One that I can pass on? Not a formula as such, but having spent some time pondering how I write these books, I have come up with a few suggestions which may be of use if you are about to embark on memoir writing (more covered in my book). If you are writing your own memoir, as opposed to ghost-writing for someone else, you will know your story better than anyone, and here lies your strength. Write straight from your heart. Think back and remember. When, and where did it all begin? Where were you? What could you smell and hear? What could you see through the window? What was going through your mind? Be there and relive it, although this may be very upsetting if you have suffered; but writing is cathartic and writing it out is a therapy in itself. Have an aim for your book (a remit) – a message you want to impart to your readers. It may be one of courage, faith, hope, or sheer bloody-mindedness. And remember when writing a true life story you have an emotional contract with your reader. You owe your reader honesty, and in return you will have your readers’ unfailing empathy and support. I have been completely overwhelmed by the thousands of emails I have received from readers who felt they knew me personally and were part of my family from reading my books. Their words of encouragement have been truly wonderful and are much appreciated. Some of these emails are on the blog on my website. Write scenes, not a monologue. Although the memoir is true it doesn’t have to be a diatribe of abuse and suffering. Write it as you would a gripping novel, building scenes, creating tension, and using cliff-hangers at the end of chapters to keep the readers’ interest. There will be highs and lows in your story, so keep the reader on a roller coaster of emotion. There will be some very sad scenes, some horrendous incidents, and some funny incidents. If there is constant and unrelenting degradation and abuse the reader will soon become desensitized and lose empathy, and therefore interest. Make your book episodic, describing in detail events that are of interest or highly poignant to your story. Leave out the mundane unless it is an intrinsic part of building the scene. You can kaleidoscope years into a couple of lines, or spread half an hour into two chapters as necessary. Your memoir should be approximately 85,000 words in length, with double line spacing, using a word processing package. If it is your first memoir, the agent and publisher may also want a detailed proposal, even if your book is already written. For writing a proposal, there are guidelines to follow, as there are for getting a literary agent. Read other books in the same genre, and consider how and why these books work. Good luck with your writing, and most importantly, enjoy it!
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Opening Lines For A Story (Great, Effective & Bad Examples)

What’s great & effective? What’s downright bad?Real Examples From Real Writers. Recently, we ran a competition solicited opening lines or sentences from real writers, with a small prize available for the winner. We’re going to look at some examples drawn from that competition . . . along with my own (hyper-picky) comments about what’s really good, and really effective. And what’s just a bit . . . not so good. Before we plunge into our sentence surgery, three quick comments. First, the examples that follow are drawn from writers writing real novels (or short stories). They are, like you, serious aspiring writers, but not yet published. For the most part, we were looking at works-in-progress, so these examples were all subject to change anyway. Second, opening sentences don’t matter all that much. The opening paragraph of the novel I’ve just handed to my publisher ran, in its entirety, as follows: Rain. Was that a good opening line for a novel? Well, no one asked me to change it, but does that sentence hook a reader in? And hook them into a story set in Wales, where the presence of rain hardly merits much discussion? I don’t think so. The fact is that the process of hooking a reader usually takes longer than a sentence and writers shouldn’t obsess unduly about the stuff above and to the left of the manuscript’s first full stop. There’ll be plenty more full stops to come. And last: I’m horrible. I mean, yes, I’m nice to widows, orphans and stray dogs, but I’m horrible to slightly iffy sentences. I’m very picky and my standards are high. So if some of my could-do-better commentary below depresses you – well, forget it. It’s not you. It’s me. But if you want to learn how to write opening sentences, then you probably want to look at what follows … How To Write A Good Opening Line: Full stops are your friends. Short, clear sentences will grab your readers’ attention.Use language that will add weight to your sentences.Use your verbs correctly, and your adjectives sparingly.Opening lines don’t have to be loud, subtlety is just as effective. Opening Lines To Novels / Short Stories: Examples So much for the preamble. Now for the sentences. (No authors are named because very few of the sentences I had had named authors on the page.) Example #1There were just three things that Samine was certain of in her life; first she was dangerous; second, she was never allowed to leave her room and, third, the spirit of a dragon lived inside her. Not bad, though it’s a little too close to Stephenie Meyer’s now famed three-part quote from Bella Swan in Twilight. Still, you can see what the author is wanting to do and the idea itself is fine. Here’s one way of tweaking things without altering anything too much (though it brings it still closer to Stephenie Meyer’s phrasing): There were just three things that Samine knew for certain. First she was dangerous. Second, she was never allowed to leave her room. Third, a dragon lived inside her. That’s shorter, clearer. It’s also better weighted. The key word in the first part of the writer’s sentence is “certain”. The addition of “in her life” doesn’t add much meaning but it does de-emphasise “certain”. My formulation is that bit clearer about where the interest of the sentence lies. One other thing, I’m not sure if this is the place to reveal that Samine can’t leave her room. The middle of one of the three certainties doesn’t tie obviously to the other two and feels a bit different. (#1 and #3 feel like existential statements; #2 feels like a simple, known fact.) But if the middle of those three statements goes, then the whole opening needs reconsideration. Example #2The most ironic thing about your first impression of me – I looked like butter wouldn’t melt. Interesting. I almost like this. My only real worry is that “the most ironic thing” bit. It feels a bit like a teenage use of ironic, which is perhaps not correct given the context, but in any case, I do wonder if there aren’t simpler, less laboured ways of doing the same thing. Suppose, for example, we just said this: Your first impression of me: I looked like butter wouldn’t melt. That is surely strongly suggesting that that first impression might be way off base, yet it conveys that impression by making the reader do most of the work. As a rough guide, the more the reader feels they’ve made a deduction, the more powerful that conclusion will feel. Example #3He’s stalking behind the disused factory, waiting for the flapping of wings to alert him to where you are. You remember when I said I’m pedantic? To stalk is a transitive verb, that is, it requires an object. I stalk you, etc., I don’t just stalk in the abstract. So that first clause feels a bit uncomfortable. And “alert him to where you are” also feels a little bit strained. Wouldn’t “alert him to your position” read better? And the double participle (waiting for the flapping) seems a bit needless here. But you only need a little tweaking and this is a strong, engaging opening: He’s searching you out behind the disused factory, waiting for a sudden flap of wings to reveal your position. That’s better. (Oh, you want to delete the word “sudden” from that? Yes, that’s probably better.”) Example #4The house had something American Gothic about it, though nothing it was minded to share. Excellent! Nothing to pick at, except that me personally I’d probably sooner say “had something of the American Gothic …”. But it’s a great, subtle opening. I like it a lot. Example #5What do you pack when you have four minutes to leave your husband? Again, that’s great opening line. Oh, and you want to know why that sentence works as well as it does? It’s because it makes you do a double-take. The first part of the sentence makes you think, “oh, this is a question about packing . . .” The second part makes you go, “whaaaaaat?!” It’s that mid-sentence pivot that gives it wellie. It’s also nice, because it instantly launches the reader into two important story-questions. Not just “why is this woman leaving her husband?”, but “why does she only have four minutes?” Of those two questions, it’s the second one that has the greater bite. Marriages collapsing are (unfortunately) a rather everyday occurrence. Marriages that collapse and give the wife just one minute to get away – well! We want to know more. Example #6My mother’s shroud was a grubby net curtain and her coffin was a gun case. You like that, don’t you? Yes, and it’s almost terrific. But I don’t like that word “grubby”, at all. It pulls attention away from “net curtain” and the use of a net curtain for a shroud is quite striking enough irrespective of whether it’s grubby. Just delete the adjective. The sentence gets instantly stronger Also, I hope this writers is about to tell us how come the gun case was big enough to fit a mother. I mean, that’s a very large case, or a remarkably small mother. So long as the author explains that niggle sometime soon, that’s fine, and (once you’ve deleted that “grubby”) it’s a good opening line. Example #7It was not a good day to bury a child, let alone ‘The Chosen One’, and the more Thomas Cowper tried to console his mother the more she sobbed, ‘Fear not, Mary … Blessed art thou amongst women.’ Hmm. I’m afraid I don’t rate this as an opening line. It’s almost good, but gets itself into a tangle, then trips over itself. And the thing is, the best bit of this sentence is the very opening and the longer it goes on the more the writer overwrites that clean and striking opening. Some full stops would help: It was not a good day to bury a child, let alone ‘The Chosen One’. The more Thomas Cowper tried to console his mother the more she sobbed. ‘Fear not, Mary … Blessed art thou amongst women.’ That’s already a lot better. Even so, I’m not completely happy. That opening line now has real merit and launches plenty of story questions (why is this a bad day? Why is a child being buried? Why is this child The Chosen One?) So if it were me, I’d leave the reader dangling a bit more, before starting to answer the questions they really cared about. So I’d run with the first question (why is this a bad day?), and just answer it with a description of winds and rain. Mourners getting soaked. Rain on the preacher’s Bible. That kind of thing. And this approach would work because I’m pretending to answer the questions I opened up with my first sentence . . . but not the ones the reader really cares about. It’s like the reader is yelling at me, WHY ARE YOU BURYING THIS CHILD? and all I’m doing is explaining why the day is a bad one. I’ve basically created suspense already, and my description of the weather is just keeeping that suspense going for longer. Example #8Deano’s hair was still wet from the pool and he swept his palm over his scalp trying to chase off the cold. ‘Come on, cock-snot. Pick up. Please.’ Okay, I very much like the dialogue. I like the contrast with the more formal opening line. The writing itself is fine. Just … I don’t quite believe the gesture you’re telling us about. When people get out of the pool their hair is normally already very flat and smoothed from the water. You definitely can’t chase cold away by palming your already flat hair and it’s not even a gesture most of us feel tempted to make. If he’s cold, he grabs a towel, or moves into the sun, or does something other than what you tell us he’s done. Picky? Yes. But getting those kinds of details utterly convincing from the off is part of what gets a reader into the story. Here, you do get the reader in, but you’ve done so with a tiny – and needless – stutter upfront. Example #9The hands on the clock didn’t seem to move, unlike mine as I drummed and fidgeted on the table. Hmm, this is okay, but it’s not quite good. The hands-not-moving-on-the-clock isn’t a cliche exactly, but it is a very familiar idea. Likewise fidgeting hands: also a very standard way of conveying impatience. Further into a novel, those kind of issues dissolve a little bit. Sometimes it’s just quicker and cleaner to reach for the familiar, so the novel can hurry onto wherever it’s heading. But in an opening sentence, I think any whiff of cliche threatens a reader’s trust, and you need to extirpate it completely. As I say, there isn’t an out-and-out cliche here, but I do think you’re cycling a little too close to the edge. My verdict? Rethink this sentence from scratch. Example #10The cat barked. Everyone will want to read on to see what follows. Purrfect. That’s a terrific opening line. Example #11The fucking train is cancelled. Again. Yep, good – cancelled trains as a sign of commuter distress is well-used, however, so I hope the writer has an interesting way to develop the incident. I would be disappointed in an opening page that just rehearsed the various woes of the commuter – but we’re on sentences here, not pages, and the sentence itself is fine. And finally: Example #12I had not been awake long, when I heard the knock on the door, I opened it and saw Sheriff Dennis Munroe on the porch, he stood a little over five foot six, but gave the appearance of being almost cubic he weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds and had arms like a bear, thick, powerful and covered in coarse black hair. Here’s one of those ‘sentences’ which is begging to be carved up. A few full stops instantly make this a mile better: I had not been awake long, when I heard the knock on the door. I opened it and saw Sheriff Dennis Munroe on the porch. He stood a little over five foot six, but gave the appearance of being almost cubic. He weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds and had arms like a bear, thick, powerful and covered in coarse black hair. That’s a relief already, only a few remaining niggles really. Using Munroe’s full name doesn’t seem right, since the narrator clearly knows the guy, and we don’t think of people as know as Title Firstname Lastname. Yes, you may want to give us Munroe’s full name in due course, but you don’t have to do it here. Secondly, that last sentence has four ands in it. That feels awkward, especially so early in the book. Third, how does the narrator know what Munroe weighs? I mean, the sheriff is clearly a fellow who likes his meat and potatoes, but that’s different from knowing someone’s measured weight. I’m not convinced. And finally, a minor thing, I have a hesitation about ‘I opened it’: it’s just that you’re narrating every tiny incident, even those we take for granted. Better to take a slightly less blow-by-blow approach. Something like this, maybe: It was early, when Sheriff Munroe came calling. He stood at my door, five feet six and almost cubic. He must weigh close to two hundred and fifty pounds, and he has the arms of a bear: thick, powerful and profusely hairy. I know that last sentence still has three ands, but the restructuring helps the rhythm, at least to my ear. And it’s so much shorter! It has the exact same content as the first sentence, but compresses it into a much shorter space. Result: much more energy per pound – and a much more compelling story. Do you want more help with your sentences?Did you know that Jericho Writers is a club. We’re here to help writers just like you. Membership of the club is low cost and can be cancelled any time (there are no lock-ins.) And what you get is extraordinary. A huge, premium video course on how to write. Loads on how to get published. Opportunities to put your work in front of literary agents and get their feedback direct. And so much more. We created our club for writers like you and we’d love it if you joined! Find out more. Best Opening Lines: The Winner There, we’re all done. If I must pick a winner, I’ll go for: What do you pack when you have four minutes to leave your husband? Or: The house had something [of the] American Gothic about it, though nothing it was minded to share. I like both of those. The second is a bit more literary; the first is a terrific opening line for a psychological thriller, or something of that sort. They’re both excellent. And One Last Comment On Story Openings The thing to remember? That your opening line it doesn’t really matter. The opening sentences for my five Fiona Griffiths novels are: #1: Beyond the window, I can see three kites hanging in the air over Bute Park. #2: It’s a Friday afternoon. #3: I like the police force. #4: Rain. #5: ‘Well?’ None of those are good opening sentences (though none of them are terrible). And, in most cases, it doesn’t take long to get something that puts a scrap of meat on the reader’s dish. The opening paragraph to my second Fi Griffiths novel, for example, goes like this: Example: Love Story, with MurdersIt’s a Friday afternoon. October, but you wouldn’t think so. High clouds scudding in from the west and plenty of sunshine. The last shreds of summer and never mind the falling leaves. That last sentence already advertises a certain strength and confidence. The reader feels immediately placed in the mood of the story. Because the writing has that confident tone, the reader trusts me. It’s as though they’re thinking, “OK, this is supposed to be a crime story. Nothing much seems to be happening yet, but I can tell this author knows what he’s doing, so I’ll stick with him and see what develops.” An opening paragraph can do more if it wants to, but it really doesn’t have to. Notice that this opening para sets up nothing interesting about the character, the situation, or, indeed, even the weather. It just sets a scene and does so with confidence. If your manuscript does that then, no matter how unshowy that opening sentence, you’re doing just fine. Oh, and if you need a little more inspiration for your opening lines, check these out. Happy writing – and happy editing! About the author: Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.) 
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How to write according to Myers-Briggs personality type

Guest author and blogger Lauren Sapala is a writing coach, the author of The INFJ Writer, and writes about writing, creativity, and personality theory on her blog. She currently lives in San Francisco. It’s often empowering to understand what helps you as a writer, but types only take us so far. First and foremost, you’re you. What builds your own creativity and what holds you back? If you’re struggling to make headway on a writing project, think how you best work, how maybe a “weakness” could be a strength, and what’ll most help you finish – will it be a deadline? Or a designated day of the week to write? For more on the MBTI system, the Myers & Briggs Foundation website is a great place to start. However, I’d urge every writer to experiment with many different methods of writing to find what works best for them. There can be great variation, even among the same type. Every artist is an individual. All artists should give themselves the permission to do whatever works best for them. Are You An Intuitive Writer? I struggled for years as a writer. I wanted desperately to write a novel, but I couldn’t even write the first page. Then, when I finally worked up the courage to take a creative writing course in college, I failed miserably. I stopped writing altogether for seven years. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I discovered my Myers-Briggs personality type that I began to shine as a writer. Finding out that I was an intuitive personality was just the information I needed to finally move forward. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a system of 16 personality types that divides people along a spectrum of traits that determine how an individual interprets and reacts to the world. The MBTI system focuses on such tendencies as introversion versus extroversion, and intuition versus sensing (i.e. relying primarily on concrete information gleaned from one’s five physical senses). The complexity of the MBTI system is too vast to be addressed fully in this article, so if you don’t already know your type or you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating area of psychology, I recommend you make use of the wealth of helpful resources that can be found online. If you do already know your type, and you want to know a bit more about how this affects your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, look at my selection of “writers by type” below, to discover how you can start using your type as a creative advantage. These below are intuitive personalities on the MBTI system – ones I seem to work oftenest with, encouraging their ideas and intuitive talent. Tips For INFJ Writers I’m an INFJ writer myself, and so I’m intimately acquainted with many of the most common obstacles INFJ writers face. The number one challenge I see INFJ writers struggle with is perfectionism. INFJs have a rich, all-consuming inner life, and they excel brilliantly at seeing the big picture and imagining the ideal version of how something could take shape in the future. Because INFJs are such amazing abstract thinkers, it’s easy for us to bring together different elements in our mind to form a perfect whole. It’s when we try to make this “perfect whole” a physical reality that we’re confronted with the real world and all the messiness, pitfalls, snags, and less-than-perfect elements it contains. INFJ writers who are unconscious of their own perfectionistic tendencies will get stuck at this stage, always dreaming and never making any of their dreams a reality. It’s only when INFJ writers realize that the real world is never perfect, and anything they create will necessarily be bound to this real-world truth, that they can begin to accept their writing for what it is, flaws and all. Tips For INFP Writers INFP writers suffer the most from too many ideas, and a feeling of being overwhelmed by all the choices and different creative paths they could take. I’ve written on my site on the non-linear way I’ve often seen INFP writers work. This can be a strength, though – a means to connect patterns between scenes, images, characters, and ideas. It’s also not uncommon to see an INFP writer working on several writing projects at once, but the problem is not that INFPs work on too many things at the same time. Instead, the problem is that they tend to judge themselves harshly and resist their natural tendency at every turn. INFPs need a lot of variety. They also need a sense of flexibility and the freedom to be spontaneous and fluid in their artistic pursuits. Out of all the types, INFPs are most likely to work in circles. This means that the INFP writer usually works on one story, then moves onto painting for a few days, then moves onto writing a poem, and finally circles back to the story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and, in fact, it can work quite well for INFPs who have accepted their nature and embrace this circular way of working. INFP writers run into trouble though, when they compare their creative processes to others and try to force themselves to work in a linear manner. Tips For ENJF Writers Out of the four intuitive feeling types (INFJ, INFP, ENFJ and ENFP) the ENFJ is the type that is most likely to fall prey to an extremely harsh inner critic. ENFJs are almost preternaturally aware of the relationship dynamics surrounding them, and that includes a thorough assessment of how others view them and how they measure up in the larger order of any community of which they happen to be a part. This leads many of them to easily play the comparison game, and many times feel like they’re coming out on the losing end. ENFJs also have a strong need for connection and community. If they feel isolated in their writing pursuits, or like no one understands them or “gets” what they’re attempting to do with their writing, they can quickly shut down and then begin isolating themselves even further. ENFJs must feel emotionally supported by a group of peers they love and respect. This is when they will do their best work. Tips For ENFP Writers ENFPs are similar to INFPs in that they suffer from the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many ideas, but with ENFPs this includes an outer world component that can contribute to even more overwhelm. Simply put, ENFPs are unabashed extroverts. They love people and they love getting out and having adventures with people. A healthy ENFP might work two jobs, have a family, and still take up demanding hobbies such as snowboarding or Spanish classes in their spare time. This kind of schedule usually leaves little time for writing. The number one problem most ENFPs struggle with is finishing things. They begin novels, plays, and short stories full of enthusiasm for the project, but then a sparkly, too-interesting-to-resist person or cause comes along and immediately distracts them. The best method for ENFPs is to devote one day a week to a certain piece of work (maybe the novel they’ve always dreamed of writing) and keep firm boundaries in place around that day so that the project gets a guaranteed slice of their creative energy on a regular basis. Never feel boxed in, though. Find your best writing habits. Always do what works for you. Learn about Lauren’s journey and read more at her site. Learn more about all different MBTI types and writing styles – and check out more free writing advice on us.
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Vivid Verbs – The Easy Way to Spice up Your Writing ׀ Jericho Writers

The ultimate guide to using verbs in your writing. Includes list of 333+ strong verbs. Sometimes you write something and it just feels … dead. So you go to work on it, juicing it up with adjectives and adverbs. Trying to put a sparkle into your writing. Only then you take a step back and look again. And what you have is actually worse. It’s still flat, but somehow trying too hard at the same time. Like playing canned laughter at your own bad party. So let’s pare back and go back to basics. Here’s what authors Strunk and White advised in their little writers’ Bible, The Elements of Style: “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.” And there are lots of others who agree. Here’s Stephen King: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.” You can also read similar comments by Elmore Leonard and Mark Twain. So what’s the problem that all these authors are getting riled up about? And what’s the fix? (Oh yes, and I’ve got a list of 300+ strong verbs for you to get your teeth into. If that’s all you want, just scroll on down.) Weak Verb + Adverb Versus Strong Verb Take a look at these sentences: “No, Thomas,” she said very quietly.He ran as quickly as he possibly could to the station.She jumped as high as she knew how off the diving platform. The words in italics are either adverbs or (same basic idea) adverbial phrases. And don’t you feel how cluttered they are? Don’t you feel like there are a lot of words being used there to communicate not so much? Here’s how we could have done it: “No, Thomas,” she whispered.He raced to the station.She leaped off the diving platform. Fewer words. No adverbs. And a simple, effective communication. Doing more with less. And that’s the basic idea about vivid verbs. If you use the right verb, you will communicate more swiftly and effectively than if you choose the wrong one to start with – then try to patch the damage with yet more verbiage. OK. So that’s a win. But there’s more to explore here – because, yes, there’s another way to go wrong with verbs, and it’s this. State Of Being Verbs Take a look at these sentences: Jerry was a great believer in the virtues of cold water.Jemima was never out of bed before midday. Notice that both those sentences use a state-of-being verb (in this case, “was”) to link a person with something about that person. And, OK, there are plenty of times when that’s a perfectly fine approach. None of the issues raised in this blog post are rules; they’re more guidelines, or at least useful things to think about. But in this case, both sentences could be made better by using a more active verb – a vivid verb – in place of that state of being one. Here’s how those sentences could have gone: Jerry believed passionately in the virtues of cold water.Jemima lay in bed well beyond midday. Better right? Jerry is now doing something, not just being something. And in Jemima’s case, we’ve removed that negative / state of being approach, and made a positive statement about her indolence. Both sentences seem somehow more active, more emphatic. Oh yes: and you probably noticed that, in the sentence about Jerry, I slipped the word passionately in there. That’s optional, but if you want to strengthen the verb, you can. There’s no neat one-word way to say “believed passionately”, so using an adverb there is certainly a legitimate choice. There Is / There Are Another perfectly valid construction in English is to start a sentence with “there is” or “there are”. For example: There were countless trees in that forest and only one of them …There are many opportunities at this company … Those sentences are not grammatically wrong. You won’t get shot if you use them. But … Well, we could do better right? For example: Countless trees peopled that forest and only one of them …This company offers many opportunities … Boom! In the first case, we’ve got rid of a horrible empty construction (“there were”), we’ve used a good strong verb (“peopled”), and the whole sentence has got better. It feels like that forest is more alive, more exciting. That’s a perfect demonstration of how a good vivid verb can help fix an underpowered sentence. Same thing with the next sentence too. In the first version, the “company” features only as an afterthought. In the second version, it is actively offering something – it’s the subject of its own sentence and its generosity seems now like a positive act. And note the role of the verb here. The act of generosity is encapsulated in that verb, “offers”. We’ve killed a weak verb, added a vivid one – and our sentence has improved. Better right? And so damn easy. Passive Verbs Vs Active Verbs Let’s take a look at two more sentences. The cake was made by my grandma.The fender was bent out of shape by a fallen branch. And yes: you spotted the issue there. In both cases, the sentences use the passive voice, not the active voice. So the person who actually made the cake was grandma. The thing that actually bent that fender was that damn branch. (Need more help remembering the difference between active versus passive? Check out this easy guide.) So in effect, both sentences shoved the real subject to the back of the sentence, almost as though shoving them out of sight. Here’s how to rewrite those sentences and make them better: My grandma made the cake.A fallen branch bent the fender. (Yes, you could say “out of shape” but doesn’t the word bent already convey exactly that? I think it does.) But again, I want to remind you that we’re dealing with guidelines not rules here. Which of these is better: Detective Jonas arrested and charged the suspect.The suspect was arrested and charged. The first sentence is all about the admirable Detective Jonas. But what if we don’t care about him? What if this story is all about the suspect, and what happens to him? In that case, the second sentence is better. In fact, the use of the passive voice here almost emphasises the suspect’s powerlessness. As always in writing, you need to use your judgement. And if in doubt, you can find extra help here, here and here! Sometimes Weak Verbs Are Ok And while we’re on the issue of judgement, let’s just remember that sometimes weak verbs are really OK. For example, you can’t get a much blander verb than say / said. So you might think that your dialogue should be littered with words like trumpeted, shouted, asserted, called, whispered, muttered, declaimed, hollered, and so on. But can you imagine how ridiculous that would get how quickly? And what do you want people to pay attention to? The dialogue itself, or your comments about it? There’s no contest. In other words: weak / dull / lifeless verbs are fine when you don’t especially want to call attention to that part of your writing. Let the dialogue shine. The rest of it can just go quietly about its job. The Ultimate List Of 333+ Strong Verbs OK. That’s a lot of preamble. But you want some vivid verbs? You got em. Here goes, grouped by the kind of word they might replace: Instead of say: Ask, enquire, reply, answer, state, hiss, whisper, mumble, mutter, comment, bark, assert, shout, yell, holler, roar, rage, argue, implore, plead, exclaim, gasp, drawl, giggle, whimper, snort, growl, scream, sing, stammer Instead of run: Sprint, dart, bolt, canter, gallop, trot, zoom, hurry, speed, jog, saunter, scamper, hurtle, rush, scramble, spring, swing, swoop, dive, careen Instead of walk: Stroll, hike, promenade, saunter, march, amble, stride, tread, pace, toddle, totter, stagger, perambulate Instead of look: Observe, glance, stare, examine, peek, study, notice, see, glare Instead of go: Leave, depart, shift, take off, move on, quit, exit, take a hike, travel, drive, proceed, progress, run, walk away Instead of eat: Pick at, nibble, munch, chew, gobble, devour, consume, demolish, gulp, swallow, scarf, wolf Instead of hold: Grip, clench, grasp, seize, reach, embrace, clamp, clench, clasp, grab Instead of give: Provide, offer, present, hand over, deliver, contribute, furnish, donate, bequeath, pass over, pass to, extend, assign, allow, lend, bestow, grant, award, confer Instead of let: Allow, permit, authorise, agree to, consent to, accede to, give permission for Instead of put: Place, set, lay, position, settle, leave, situate, locate, plant, deposit, plonk, plunk Instead of pull: Yank, heave, haul, draw, cart, lug, hump, drag, tow, jerk, attract, pluck, wrench Instead of move: Progress, transfer, shift, topple, change, redeploy, refocus, relocate, prod, nudge, induce, cause, budge, stir, lead, encourage, propose, induce, slink, scamper, careen, zip, ram, drift, droop, heave, edge, stalk, tiptoe, creep, crawl, plod, waddle, drag, stagger Sensory verbs / quiet: Sigh, murmur, rustle, hum, patter, clink, tinkle, chime, whir, swish, snap, twitter, hiss, crackle, peep, bleat, buzz Sensory verbs / noisy: Crash, thunder, clap, stomp, beat, squawk, shout, yell, explode, smash, detonate, boom, echo, bark, bawl, clash, smash, jangle, thump, grate, screech, bang, thud, blare Instead of tell: Order, command, instruct, dictate, require, insist, warn, caution, decree, mandate, charge, direct, dominate, lead, rule Instead of like: Love, adore, yearn, treasure, worship, prefer, idolise, cherish, admire, enjoy, be fond of, be keen on, be partial to, fancy, care for, appreciate, hold dear Instead of want: Desire, crave, covet, yearn for, aspire to, envy, fancy, require, wish for, hanker after, need, lack, miss, aim for, choose Instead of cover: Bury, wrap, conceal, mask, veil, hide, cloak, shroud envelope, obscure, blanket, curtain Instead of throw: Toss, lob, chuck, heave, fling, pitch, shy, hurl, propel, bowl, cast, drop, project Instead of surprise: Confuse, puzzle, bewilder, baffle, bamboozle, disconcert, flummox, perplex Have fun, my friends, and happy writing! About The Author  Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)  (You can read more about Harry here and here, and more about his books here).  More On How To Write Link to: How to Write a Book (10 Doable Steps for New Writers) How To Write A step-by-step guide
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6 tips for writing really bad villains

By C M Taylor Ever wondered what goes in to writing a nasty villain? Guest author C M Taylor has put together 6 top tips for writing really bad villains, plus everything else you need to build a well-rounded bad guy. Featured In This Article Thematically develop your villain– a crucial stepCreate a compelling backstory– the richer the betterBuild emotional logic– and learn why this mattersShow physical and mental scarsAdd in super human giftsMake your villain unbeatableWriting well-rounded bad guys and villainsDoes every story need a villain?How to create a likeable villainWhat if your protagonist is a villain?11 examples of evil villains and bad guys The term ‘villain’ defines a character who personifies the forces which thwart the progress of the main character. Now, while it is feasible that the villain is the main character – and we will come on to that less usual and more nuanced situation later on – in the vast majority of cases, the villain is villainous in relation to opposing the needs and desires of the main character. This structural role of antagonising the main character is the reason the villain is often described as the antagonist. They are a character who stands in negative relation to the spiritual, emotional, moral or financial progress of the main character, a character who is often described as the protagonist. Thematically Develop Your Villain A writer can usefully begin their creation of a villain via an understanding of theme. Are you writing about loyalty, for example? In which case, your protagonist has issues with loyalty which they must overcome, via the obstacles of the plot, to achieve a healthy, positive attitude to loyalty. Hence the role of the villain is to embody and prosecute a version of loyalty which is negative but tempting, which is corrupt but seductive, which might derail the heroic character’s attempt to achieve a healthy version of the theme. It is the villain’s job to oppose the progress of the hero, and so, knowing the specific thematic nature of the progress which the hero must make, that necessarily takes you some way to defining the nature of your villain. Your villain must be suitable and specifically adept at preventing the thematic success of your hero, hence must embody a negative version of that theme. Create A Compelling Backstory So, once you have understood your theme and decided which negative version of the theme is embodied by your villain, you next ask yourself why they are like this. For an example, let’s stick with the theme of loyalty. Your villain might espouse a version of loyalty which states you must have only loyalty to yourself, or loyalty to chaos, or loyalty to crime, or loyalty to the dead. Any unhealthy version of the theme will do. Let’s pick they have loyalty to chaos and want to bring disorder and anarchy to the whole world. Why are they like this? Their parents were unbelievably controlling and up-tight and rational and crushed the villain with their excessive punctiliousness maybe. Or the villain and their brother were in some youth cadet force which was all about order and discipline and the brother died in an accident born of excessive following of the rules. You see, one you have your thematic relation, you move to explain it via the backstory. Build Emotional Logic Our thematically-driven excavation and development of the villain’s backstory allows us to take an emotionally logical approach and explain why the villain is like they are. Continuing with our theme of loyalty, our rule-following cadet was eager and good to start with, tragic events having turned them on to a negative chaotic version of loyalty. Or our young child started off good but was hounded by neurotically rule-bound parents to crave the release of chaos. If you show the reader that it is emotionally logical for the villain to have passed from a state of health to their current corrupted self as a consequence of events, you humanise the villain. You make the reader think that they themselves might plausibly have reacted the same way in the same circumstances. You give the villain an emotional plausibility and a gravitas. And a decent villain needs gravitas, needs the emotional plausibility and heft to pull the villain into their version of the theme, into their version of reality. A good villain is like a moral centrifuge. What they pull towards them and put in peril is the hero’s self, their morality, the hero’s version of the theme. Showing it was entirely reasonable for the villain to arrive at the moral place they are in shows that the hero might arrive their too, and so puts a huge amount of jeopardy in play for the hero. Show Physical And Mental Scars The clichéd villain is often physically disfigured, right? There being a suggestion of a relationship between moral and physical disfigurement. I would however caution against this simple equation, quite apart from it perpetuating discrimination against people who are unfortunate enough to be physically disfigured, it has been done to death. Why not mix it up? The hero is trying to overcome prejudice against their physical disfigurement while the gorgeous villain is prone to the ravages of narcissism. Add In Super Human Gifts Your protagonist has to be special. In some genres like fantasy or science fiction they can be ‘the one’ level of special. In genres such as crime or thriller they can ‘exceptional human being’ levels of special. In genres such as romance or realism, they can ‘normal person pushed to the edge behaves heroically’ levels of special. And if your protagonist is special well, given that it is the job of the villain to oppose the protagonist, then in order to seem anything like able to compete with the hero, the villain needs to be special too. Make Your Villain Unbeatable Every villain needs to seem unbeatable to start with. The obstacles they place in the way of the protagonist must seem insurmountable. If the hero can beat the villain at the beginning, then there are no struggles needed. It is the insurmountable villain that causes the hero to develop and grow. It may be that your story is a tragic and the hero fails to beat the villain in the end. However it ends, in the beginning there must be no way that the hero – in their current state – can compete. Writing Well-rounded Bad Guys And Villains Why do villains matter to fiction?  Answering this involves taking this question right back to ask ourselves: what is a story? The crux of a story is concerned with how the main character changes, or fails to change, over time, in contact with internal, external and relationship pressures. A story is a map of this change over time, or this failure to change over time. The change is both an internal, emotional journey and an external, physical journey. Now if the journey comes easily, then there will be no drama, because drama requires struggle. The journey which the protagonist goes on needs to be ripe with struggle – with obstacles, tests, high stakes. The most common and identifiable way to manifest struggle is to have it between people. Between the antagonist (or villain) and the protagonist (or heroic character). It is the antagonist who provides the obstacles standing in the way of the protagonist’s need to consummate their change. It is the test of wills between the antagonist and the protagonist that generates the struggle. On a very simple level, in terms of the mechanics of plot, it is the villain who sets the test and the heroic character who sits the test. It is the villain whose actions provoke the need for the hero to act. Batman without The Joker would have no need to act. The villain is a dark twin to the hero. The villain embodies the shadow qualities of the hero. The villain is what the hero might have been, what the hero might be, should they make the wrong choices, which is what gives rise to the clichéd piece of film dialogue, ‘We are not so different you and I, Mr Bond.’ If the heroic character struggles to embody the positive possibilities in a work of fiction, the villain convincingly embodies the negative aspects. The villain personifies the specific forces of antagonism which aim to prevent the protagonist from completing their internal and external journey. Does Every Story Need A Villain? The short answer to this question is no – in terms of the villain being a physical personification of antagonism, not every story has or needs this. A story needs antagonism, yes, and most usually this antagonism takes the form of a human being standing in opposition to the progress of the heroic character, but it is not necessary to do this. Antagonism can be generated in other variations than the single, embodied villain. The antagonism might be within the heroic character themselves. It might be a mistaken belief about life which leads them astray or into repeated unhealthy actions; or it might be an addiction. Note that choosing to centre the antagonistic force internal to the main character influences what type of story you are telling. It would be hard to make this choice and write an action story, for example. The choice to situate the main antagonistic force internally, as an aspect of the heroic character, is more associated with character-led stories – literary or dramatic works, or sometimes the psychological thriller. Whereas the more traditional human villain personification of antagonistic force is more usual within crime or fantasy or action stories. There are other forms of antagonism too. It might be centred around a group of people. It might be the family that a young person needs to escape to ‘become’ whole. Or it might be the pain still felt when a parent abandoned a child. Or it might be a best friend who continually leads the main character into activities which are against their best interests. Basically, antagonistic forces can be anything as long as they are the main obstacle in the way of the protagonist achieving what they most need. Traditionally this force has been embodied via the personification of a villain, but the villainous function can be performed within a story by other forces. How To Create A Likeable Villain As I write above, the villain stands or falls on the plausibility of their world view – the villain is the hero in their own eyes. If you can show why the villain has ventured from the path of moral health to become the creature they are today then you have created the route by which the reader can empathise with the villain. And if they can empathise then – in the current parlance – they can possess relatability. All the best characters are layered, multidimensional and above all, unique. So, if your bad guy can have some redeeming qualities, or a journey that the reader can connect with, then that could definitely make for an interesting read. What If Your Protagonist Is A Villain? Your protagonist can be both hero and villain – look at Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Or your protagonist can be a criminal – look at The Godfather, at Breaking Bad, at The Sopranos, at Crime and Punishment. Or your protagonist can be an anti-hero – look at Mr Robot.  They can be any of those things. As long as they are subject to thematically congruent antagonistic forces, the rules are the same. As long as we know why they are like they are – In The Godfather, Michael Corleone gets pulled back into the family business of murder and extortion through love of his threatened father. Walter White sells meth – initially at least – to protect his ill family in Breaking Bad. Elliot from Mr Robot illegally hacks computers to out greater criminals. This is a common strategy – outflanking your villains with even greater villains to make your villain comparatively empathetic. Look at Dexter. Yes, he is a serial killer, but he only kills people who are themselves worse than him. He performs bad acts for a comprehensible and relatable reason. 11 Examples Of Evil Villains And Bad Guys Tricking Othello into murdering his own wife makes Iago a pretty good start to our collection.Another trickster, in Treasure Island, Long John Silver tricks Jim Hawkins, disguising his own role as leader of the mutiny.Why do we care for and want the sociopathic murder Tom Ripley to escape throughout Patricia Highsmith’s Mr Ripley novels? Because he feels love and we feel his vulnerability and inadequacy.And why do we admire Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris’ novels? Because he is brilliant and stylish and logical.Only somebody as prodigiously gifted as Moriarty could aspire to being a villain worthy of Sherlock Holmes special powers.Anne Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery turns out to the fan no writer wants.Xan may seem like the villain in P D James’ The Children of Men but isn’t the broader antagonistic force that of infertility itself.No mistaking that it’s a shark who is the villain of Peter Benchley’s novel, Jaws.Isn’t narcissism the antagonistic force in play in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey?Are dinosaurs the antagonistic force of Jurassic Park? Rather I would say it was the human vanity and over-reaching that lead to the recreation of dinosaurs in the first place. Same with Dr Frankenstein – it’s the Dr not the monster who sets the test.Isn’t the entire Republic of Gilead the antagonist force in The Handmaid’s Tale? Have Your Say So, there we have it, a foolproof method to build your very own villainous bad guy. Have we missed anything? Anything else you’d like to add? Head on over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know what you think. About The Articles Author C M Taylor has been nominated for the British Science Fiction book of the year and published a number of novels, including Staying On, (Duckworth 2018), Premiership Psycho (Corsair 2011) and the Amazon best-selling Group of Death (Corsair 2012). Craig has also co-written a thriller movie script, Writers Retreat, which was filmed in 2014 and premiered at the Sitges International Film Festival, and he continues to be commissioned to write scripts for TV and film. C M Taylor is also a sought-after editor, working with a well-known publisher as well as working with Jericho Writers as a book editor.
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Points of View in Fiction Writing (with Plenty of Examples)

What is first person? What’s third person? What’s all this about limited vs omniscient…? How you narrate a story – or what points of view you choose when writing fiction – can make all the difference to its appeal. What’s more, the choices you make now will affect every page (indeed, pretty much every sentence) of your novel. So you’d better get things right, huh? No worries. This post will tell you everything you need to know. We’ll start with some definitions and some examples, then assess the pros and cons of each possibility. Oh, and buckle up. This stuff can sound quite technical and scary, but (a) it’s simpler than it sounds, and (b) the choice you want to make instinctively is probably the right one. It’s really possible to overthink these things! First up: some definitions. All You Need To Know About Points Of View Point of view (POV) is the narrator’s position in relation to the story: First person – the narrator and protagonist are the sameSecond person – very rare and hard to pull offThird person – an ‘off-page’ narrator relates a story about your charactersMixed – combines first-and third-person passages Point Of View: Definitions The Point of View (or “POV”) is the narrator’s position in relation to the story. There are a few basic possibilities here, one of which is exceptionally rare. They are: First person narrationIn this instance the narrator speaks in the first person, (“I did this, I said that, I thought the other.”) The narrator and the novel’s protagonist are essentially one and the same.Second person narrationHere the narrator speaks in the third person (“You did this”, and so on.) It’s exceptionally rare as a technique and is definitely not advisable for beginners.Third person narrationIn this instance, the narrator speaks in the third person, (“She did this, he did that, they did the other.”) The narrator is basically an invisible storyteller, telling the reader what happens to the novel’s protagonists. Third person narration comes in two basic flavours: limited third person and the extremely grand-sounding omniscient third person. We’ll get more into the detail of those two in a moment, but the basic difference is that a limited 3rd person narrator stays very close to the character whose viewpoint is being used. An omniscient one is more inclined to wander free from the character and give a broader view of things. (Not sure you’ve got the distinction? No worries. We’ll get to more details in a moment.)Mixed narrationIf a novel combines passages told from the first person point of view with passages told from the third person point of view, it has mixed narration – or mixed first and third person point of view, if you really want to spell it out. Point Of View: Examples Examples of first person narration are legion. For example: The Sherlock Holmes stories (narrated by Dr Watson, in the first person)Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories (narrated by Philip Marlowe, of course)Bridget Jones’s Diary, narrated by … well, you’ve already guessed, right?Moby Dick, narrated by … well, put it this way, the famous first line is “Call me Ishmael.”Hunger Games, narrated by Katniss EverdeenTwilight, narrated by Bella SwanThe Kay Scarpetta novels of Patricia CornwellSome of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books (but not all) Here’s an example of first person point of view in practice: “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.”—Moby Dick, by Herman Melville Examples of second person narration are extremely rare. Famous recent examples include: Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City opens with the line, “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time in the morning” and then it continues from there, with the protagonist always described as “you”.Italo Calvino did much the same thing in If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller.There are a few other examples too, but you’ve got to me a really smart and skilled writer to do this. In short, for 99.99% of writers out there, just fuhgeddabahtit. This technique isn’t one for you. Examples of third person narration are also commonplace. For example: Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, which is about Lisbeth Salander, but not narrated by herThe Da Vinci Code, about Robert Langton, but not narrated by himJane Austen’s Pride & PrejudiceJohn Grisham’s The FirmStephen King’s MiserySome of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, but not all And here’s an example of third person narration in practice: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”—Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen Got that? OK. We’ll skip on to the limited / omniscient distinction, then start figuring out how to apply point of view to your novel. Third Person Pov: Limited Vs Omniscient OK, the thing that probably most confuses newer writers is the distinction between third person limited and third person omniscient. Quite honestly, though, this isn’t something to trouble with too much. If you want to write in third person, just do what’s right for your characters and your story, and you should do just fine. If you want to know more, however, what you need to know is this: Third Person Limited: Definition & Example When you use a limited form of third person narration, you stay very close to your character. So the narrator isn’t telling the reader anything that the character in question wouldn’t themselves know / see / hear / sense. Here’s a beautiful example from Anne Tyler (in Breathing Lessons): “They planned to wake up at seven, but Maggie [the point of view character in this passage] must have set the alarm wrong and so they overslept. They had to dress in a hurry and rush through breakfast, making do with faucet coffee and cold cereal. Then Ira headed off for the store on foot to leave a note for his customers, and Maggie walked to the body shop. She was wearing her best dress – blue-and-white sprigged with cape sleeves – and crisp black pumps, on account of the funeral. The pumps were only medium-heeled, but slowed her down some anyway.” You’ll notice that nothing at all in that passage is something that Maggie doesn’t know about. So even when the passage talks about Ira heading off to the store, that’s done from Maggie’s perspective. We know that he goes and what his purpose is there, but we know nothing at all about his walk itself – whereas we know exactly what Maggie’s wearing, and why, and why her shoes slowed her down. This is third person limited (because it’s so closely limited to Maggie’s perspective) and as you can see it delivers a kind of intimacy – even a homeliness. Third Person Omniscient: Definition And Example The omniscient version of third person is, as you’d expect, able to tell the reader things that aren’t directly knowable by any of the characters in the tale. The most famous example of this narrative voice in literature is surely this passage from Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope,it was the winter of despair, …” As you can see, this isn’t told from any character’s viewpoint. It’s almost as though a lordly, all-seeing Charles Dickens is hovering over London (or England? or the world?) and giving his kingly overview of the situation. This type of writing has become rather less common in fiction, so you’ll tend to stick with broadly limited narration, interspersed (perhaps) by something a little more omniscient in flavour. Point Of View: Which One Should You Write In? First Person Point Of View First-person narration shares action as seen through the eyes of your narrator. A narrator can therefore only narrate scenes in which he or she is present. Coming-of-age novels – Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower – work exceptionally well in first-person narration. A lot of YA books are written in first person, because their intimate, emotional narration chimes with their teenaged readership. Romances (with their emotional focus) are also often first person. So are ghost stories with a sense of claustrophobia like Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. In particular, however, it’s worth thinking about Jonathan Franzen’s dictum that, “Write in third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.” In other words: (A) do you feel you have to write in that first person voice, and (B) does that first person voice really sound and feel distinctive, personal and indvidual. I’ve mostly written third person, but my recent detective novels are first person – essentially for the reasons Franzen hints at. Here’s an example from my book, The Deepest Grave. (I’ve made some short edits for length, but mostly this is as it appears in the finished book.) The narrator is Fiona Griffiths, my detective protagonist. I’m a little earlier than I said, but it’s not long before I hear the sound of approaching feet.Katie appears. Sees me up here on my bank. I raise a hand and smile welcome.She approaches.Impressively torn black jeans. Black cowboy boots, well-used. Dark vest-top worn under an almost military kahki shirt. A chunky necklace. One of those broad-brimmed Aussie-style hats with a leather band. […]The look has attitude and personality and toughness, without quite dipping into angry hippy counterculture.Also: she walks with a ski-stick, a mobility aid not a fashion statement.She comes up the bank towards me. Sits beside me.I say, ‘You hurt your ankle?’ You’ll notice that it’s not just that the observations are made by Fiona. (eg: “not long before I hear the sound of approaching feet”). It’s also that the character of those observations is shaped 100% by Fiona herself. So yes, the list of clothes that Katie is wearing is a fairly neutral list (though the very short sentences and lack of any verbs – that’s all Fiona). But that summary comment about the overall effect (“the look has attitude  . . .without quite dipping into angry hippy counterculture”) is what Fiona thinks about Katie’s look. I can’t comment myself, because this is Fiona’s narration. She’s in charge. For the same reason, if there were, let’s say, a lion in the undergrowth about to spring out on Fiona, the book couldn’t say anything about the lion, until Fiona herself had seen / heard / smelled / witnessed it in some way. Does that sound claustrophobic? Needlessly restrictive? Well, maybe. But I’m now halfway into writing novel #7 in that series, and when that book’s complete I’ll be close to 1,000,000 words published in the series. And every single one of those words, without exception, comes from Fiona’s voice. There is no other perspective anywhere in the series. In other words, the restriction of first person is real, but you can still write at length, and successfully in that style. First Person Point Of View, Pros And Cons .This is quite easy, really! The pro is the opposite of the con and vice versa. Pro: First person narration gives you intense, personal familiarity with the narrator. The reader can’t – short of putting the book down – separate from the narrator’s voice, their thoughts, their commentary, their feelings etc. Con: You lose flexibility. If there’s a lion in the undergrowth, you can’t say so, until your narrator has seen the damn thing. If a key thing happens in your plot without your narrator in the room, then tough. he or she can only talk about it when they encounter the consequences down the road. My comment:I’ve written books both ways. There’s no right or wrong here. I love both. One good tip is to use first person narration mostly when you have a distinctive narrator with a strong voice. Most thrillers are written third person (so they can flip between different points of view (eg: investigator / victim / perpetrator), but there’s no absolute rule. I write mine first person. Likewise, a lot of romance stories are written first person . . . but you can go either way there too. Third Person Point Of View Third person narration uses “he” or “she”, where a first person narrator would say, “I”. Here’s an example taken from (and this is a blast from the past for me!) my first novel, The Money Makers: They spoke of other things until it was late. They damped down the fire, cleared away the dishes, and walked upstairs. Fiona went right on into the one usable bedroom. Matthew stopped at the door, where his bag lay.‘Fiona,’ he said. ‘You remember you said you would never ever lie for me again?’‘Yes.’‘Any chance of your lying for me right now?’ He looked at the inviting double bed, heaped high with clean linen and feather quilts.She smiled. Once again, ambiguity flickered in frightened eyes, but her answer was clear. She walked right up to Matthew and stopped a few inches from him. Her long dark hair fell around her shoulders, and her face was only inches from his. This scene (and the whole chapter) is written from Matthew’s perspective. So, yes, much of the factual data here (“they spoke of other things until it was late”) was available to both Fiona and Matthew in this scene. At the same time, when they step up close and get intimate, it’s Matthew we’re with, not Fiona. (How do we know this? Because when we get to “ambiguity flickered in frightened eyes”, it’s Matthew that sees this, not Fiona. If that little bit had been written from Fiona’s perspective, it would have had to say, “she felt ambivalent and frightened”, or something like that. Limited Vs Omniscient My advice to newer writers is mostly to forget about this distinction. As a rule, you should stick close to your character – and that means adopting a generally limited point of view. How come? Well, quite simply, readers want to experience story through the eyes and ears of its characters, and that means time away from the limited perspective is time spent away from that precious character-experience. That said, if now and again, you want to dive into something a little more godlike (or omniscient), you absolutely can. Just: Make sure that your godlike voice offers something grand, the way Charles Dickens’s does in Tale of Two Cities. (The opening passage of White Teeth by Zadie Smith offers a rather more contemporary example.)Use that omniscient voice only in small doses. You want to zoom, pretty damn fast, from the omniscient view to the up-close-and-personal one. The golden rule to remember here is that readers want character – and they only get that experience from the limited perspective. Third Person Point Of View: Pros And Cons The main limitation we found with the first person narrative approach was its restrictiveness. My and my Fiona Griffiths books, with every one of those 1,000,000 words locked into one voice, one point of view. So most writers adopting the third person approach will use multiple perspectives. George Eliot’s Middlemarch is one famous example. The same goes for much of nineteenth century fiction, especially of the more epic variety: Dickens, War and Peace, Vanity Fair, Henry James, you name it. What you get from those many perspectives is the ability to see into many hearts, many minds, many souls. That multi-viewpoint narration gives your novel: Richness – all those multiple perspectivesFlexibility – you can set your movie camera up wherever the action is happening. You avoid the restrictions of narrow first person narration.Potentially something epic in scale – because all those characters and voices lend a depth and scale to your story. Also notice this: There are types of suspense you just can’t deliver in a first person novel. So Hitchcock famously distinguished between surprise and suspense. If two people are sitting in a cafe, when a bomb detonates – that’s a surprise. But let’s restructure that same episode with multiple viewpoints, and you get something completely different. So we might see (Point of View #1) a terrorist planting a bomb in the cafe, then switch perspectives to (Point of View #2) the innocent couple drinking coffee right by the ticking bomb. In that case, the simple scene of two people drinking coffee becomes laden with suspense. The reader knows the bomb is there. The couple don’t. What’s going to happen . . .? That’s a type of suspense that we first-personeers (or single perspective third personeers) just can’t deliver. Consequently, third person / multiple viewpoint novels are particularly common with: thrillers and suspense novelsanything epic in scale. We’ve mentioned some nineteenth century fiction already, but George RR Martin and his Game of Thrones series is a perfect example of modern and big. Ditto any door-stopper by Tom Clancy. Third Person Point Of View: Summary Most third person novels are written with multiple perspectives, even if (as in Harry Potter) the point of view stays mostly with a single central character. Advantages and disadvantages? Well, essentially you get the opposite of the first person pros and cons. So third person / multi-viewpoint narration: Is flexible. You can pop the camera anywhere you want. You can deliver suspense as well as surprise.Enlarges your book. It can move you from a narrow-focus/small book to a wide-focus/epic one.Loses intimacy. In particular, if your camera gets too promiscuous – if you just use too many viewpoints – you risk breaking the reader’s bond with your central character(s). If that happens, your book dies! Third Person Narration: The Golden Rules We said above that the main risk of multiple viewpoints is that you break the reader’s bond with your main character and as a result you end up losing the reader completely. Bad outcome, right? A book killer. Multiple Points Of View: Three Golden Rules Fiction is about inner worlds and inner journeys, and you need to respect that. So here are the rules: GOLDEN RULE #1Limit your number of primary characters I’d suggest that, for almost any new novelist, you should not go above three. My first book was a story about three sons, although the sister too had a significant secondary viewpoint. I’d say that count of three-and-a-half viewpoints represents the upper limit for any first novel by all but the most gifted novelists. You can go higher than that. I think of books that run to dozens of viewpoints. But as a place to start? Nope, that kind of thing is too dangerous for 99.9% of you. (And the 0.1% are talented enough, that I don’t really know why they’re reading this!) Your next rule follows from the first: GOLDEN RULE #2Never go more than 3-4 pagesbefore returning to your primary characters. We’ve all watched movies where the leading couple is so incredibly strong that the movie starts to die as soon as one of them is off-screen. Or take that great first series of Homeland, where Carrie (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Green) had a mesmeric quality together. You could have scenes with both of them in (great!). Or scenes with just one of them in (very good!). But scenes with neither? They flagged very quickly. And sure: you need some filler scenes just to make sense of the story. But if you stay away from your main characters for too long, the book dies. And just because I said “3-4 pages” in the rule above doesn’t mean that you have that much space every time you take a break. You don’t. You need to keep those non-protagonist scenes as short and tight as possible. Three pages is better than four. Two pages is better than three. And our next rule follows from the first two – and from absolutely everything we know about why stories work as they do. GOLDEN RULE #3Every main character (every protagonist)needs their own fully developed story arc. If you use any Point of view repeatedly, the character needs a fully developed inner life, a fully developed arc, a full set of challenges, encounters and personal change – and relevance, too. Is this person relevant to your collective story material? So take my first book, The Money Makers, with its three (and a bit) protagonists. Every single one of those three needed: A motivationA challengeA set of external obstacles (ie: things in the world)A set of internal obstacles (ie: things in their character that blocked them from accomplishing their goals)A crisis, linked to all the things in the list so farA resolution In effect, to write a three-handed story, you have to write three stories, each perfectly structured in their own right. Phew! That sounds like a scary undertaking, and yes, I guess it is. But because a book can be only so long, if you write from three points of view, each one of the stories you are telling can afford to be quite simple – the kind of thing that would seem a bit flat if told on its own. (If you’re a bit worried about fitting it all in then you’ll probably find this blog on chapter lengths and this one on wordcount really useful.) As it happens, I love third person / multiple viewpoint narration almost as much as I love first person. There isn’t a right or a wrong in the choice; it’s only a question of how you want to write and how your story wants to be written. About the author: Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.) 
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How to Copyright Your Book – Fast ׀ Jericho Writers

Fast, easily and cheaply It’s easy to copyright your work. We explain exactly how to do it and what you can hope to achieve in this article. What Is Copyright? You’re reading this because you’ve created something – a book, a novel, a story, a play. Whatever. Good. You now own the copyright in your work, which means that you have the absolute right to control its use and distribution. If someone tries to copy your work without your permission, you have the legal right to stop them. If you wish to license or sell your work to a third party on defined terms – such as a book deal with a publisher – then you have the right to do that too. That all sounds simple, right? And in essence, it is. Unsurprisingly, though, there are some twists and turns, so it’s worth reading all the way to the end of this post before deciding what to do. How To Copyright A Book? Is Copyright Automatic? The first surprise, for some readers, is that copyright protection is automatic. In other words, you acquire copyright protection for your work simply by writing it down. As soon as the words have left your fingertips – as soon as they’re marks on a page or screen – they belong to you and no one can copy them. The trouble is that there are two ways in which it is, in theory, possible to copy someone’s work. Direct copying of text. If someone just takes all or part of your text and copies it out word for word, that’s a breach of your copyright. In the most egregious cases – like e-book pirates simply stealing your book and selling it online – the offence is utterly obvious and beyond dispute. But that’s not the only way that illicit copying can occur …Copying of ideas, characters, sequences, concepts. But it’s also possible for a breach of copyright to take place even without direct copying of text. For example, suppose I decided to take Delia Owens’ smash hit Where the Crawdads Sing and rewrite it in my own words. I might decide to use my own words and a new set of character names, but to leave every single plot incident, emotional moment, and so on exactly as in the original. In that case, I would be breaching Owens’ copyright as surely as if I’d just written the whole thing out word for word. If Owens chose to sue me in a court of law, I’d most certainly lose. You can read more on that, here. Now, all that seems pretty damn obvious, but there’s an ugly little legal loophole that remains open. If I’d copied Crawdads out word for word, everyone would know that I’d copied and where I’d copied it from. There’s just no possibility that my copying was a remarkable coincidence. But what if the themes / characters / plot twists seemed very similar, but had some differences? You might say my version of the book looked eerily familiar … but there are supposedly only seven plots in the world anyway. Themes of death, parenting, coming of age, self-expression and so on (all themes to be found in Crawdads) are common enough. Maybe two different authors just happened across the same basic set of ideas. Now if you were Delia Owens and wanted to prove that my version of the Crawdads story was a deliberate knock-off of your own, you’d have to prove, in court, that I had read your book before composing my own version. If you could achieve that level of proof, you’d probably win the trial. Fail, and you’d probably lose. That feels like a really tricky problem to solve … but it’s the problem that copyright registration was born to solve. Why Register Copyright In Your Work? Registering copyright can solve two problems for you. They are: How can you easily and simply prove that you are the author of a given work? And how can you easily and simply prove the date on which your manuscript was complete?How can you get around the issue of having to prove that a given plagiarist had accessed your story before their copying began? Fortunately, there are solutions to both of these conundrums. There’s a cheap, easy version that does a bit less for you. And there’s an annoyingly bureaucratic and pointlessly expensive version that does more. Here are the options: How to register authorship and date of production If all you want to do is prove that you are the author of a given work and that your work was completed by such-and-such a date, then you can just use an online ‘copyright vault’ service, such as Protectmywork.com. Using such a service will solve the “whose work, what date?” issue. It will not solve the second issue highlighted above. If someone copies your ideas and plot, but doesn’t snatch your exact wording, you would still have to prove that the plagiarist had read and used your work. That’s going to be tough. For that reason, anyone really serious about copyright, will take the more complicated – and official – action below. The advantage of this cheap and cheerful version of protection, however, is simply that it’s cheap and cheerful. So for $50 / £30, you can copyright-protect not just one document, but many. If you’re prolific and want the assurance of proper legal documentation of your authorship, this is a very low-cost way to achieve what you need. But let’s say you want to do things properly, in that case you’ll want to register copyright with the US Copyright Office, part of the Library of Congress. How to register your work with the US Copyright Office If you register your work with the US Copyright Office, you will prove that you are the author of a given work. And the date of production will also be proved. But better still, if you register your work with the Copyright Office, anyone copying your work will be automatically deemed to have read it. So Delia Owens no longer has to prove that I’ve read her Crawdads book. If she (or more likely her publisher) has registered her work, then any court will simply assume that I have read it. Then the legal argument will simply revolve around whether my version is or is not too close to her version to constitute copying. That’s a win, right? The trouble is, the cost is a lot higher ($100 per document registered) and the process is annoyingly bureaucratic. The form you need to fill in is here. You need to print out that form, fill it out, and send it off with cheque for $100 and a paper copy of your work to: Library of Congress Copyright Office-TX 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington DC 20559-6000 And yes, I know. A printed form! And a paper copy of your work! And this is in the 2020s, not the 1920s or 1820s. But there you go. Bureaucrats just wanna bureaucratise. If you’re really serious about protecting your work, that’s the route you have to take. But before you start printing forms and scribbling out cheques to the government, just pause a moment to think what you will achieve and whether it’s worth it. Will Copyright Protection Defeat Plagiarists? Arguably, the big question is simply whether copyright protection serves any practical purpose at all. And that means considering the world as it is. (You might want to peruse this list of plagiarism scandals as a reminder of how these things actually operate.) And here’s what we learn: Are publishers or literary agents likely to steal your work? No. Because their business would come to an abrupt, juddering, nasty halt as soon as they were caught, which would be pretty damn soon. I’ve read around a little bit and can’t find any bonafide case of an agent trying to steal and profit from an unpublished author’s work. OK, maybe there’s a case somewhere that I’ve missed, but the literary agent community receives hundreds of thousands of manuscripts a year. Stealing just basically doesn’t happen. You should worry about lightning strike or asteroid falls before you start to worry about those things. Are professional book pirates likely to steal your work? Yes. Or rather: no, if your book never really achieves any sales. But yes, definitely, if your book sells enough copies to seem worth thieving. I’m not going to dignify any of those plagiarism websites with a link, but they exist. And they are there to steal books. So if your book is selling well on Amazon at $7.99, there’ll be a plagiarist selling the exact same text at $0.99 or less. They don’t have to actually copy out your text to do that. They just have to break the DRM lock on your ebook (easily done; it takes two minutes), then they copy the file. I don’t know any properly bestselling author (including me) whose work has not been pirated. Will copyright protection defeat the pirates? No. Of course, it won’t. They’re thieves. They steal stuff. Those websites are commercial enterprises which exist to profit from theft. So what about you send those guys a cease and desist notice? What about you actually hire a hotshot, $600-an-hour lawyer to go after them? Well, here’s a guess: they laugh at you. Wherever they are, you can be damn sure they’ll base their horrible website in a jurisdiction which really, really doesn’t care about your copyright issues. Is there practically speaking any way to defeat plagiarism? No – and I can prove it. Here’s my argument: I am willing to bet that your resources are less than those deployed by, say, Penguin Random House.PRH’s authors are routinely plagiarised.Yes, PRH chases the thieves around the internet and uses hotshot lawyers wherever it’s plausible those guys will make a difference, but …PRH’s authors are still routinely plagiarised. That’s probably true of pretty much all their top-selling authors.You can afford $100 to register your work with the Library of Congress. That’s true.But you probably can’t afford a lot of hours that are charged at $600 an hour, and you certainly can’t afford them if the likelihood of that spending making a difference is close to nilNo government agency or law enforcement body anywhere in the world is going to care that a plagiarist is stealing your work.So there is nothing you can do. Conclusion Honestly? My advice? Look register your copyright if it’ll make you feel better. But you aren’t ever going to go to court to enforce your copyright and you’ll probably bankrupt yourself if you do. So write a great book. Sell it. Then write another. If you do well – if you do really, really well – book piracy sites will steal a tiny bit from your sales. (Or maybe not: because maybe the people who take books from those sources would never put an honest dollar in your pocket anyway.) But there’s nothing you can do about it, so just write another book, and sell it, and be happy because you are doing a hard thing well. And you feel good about doing it. Oh, and if you meet a book pirate? Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to thump them. Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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How To Write A Children’s Book: All You Need To Know

One author’s guide to writing a children’s book that will actually get published There are some people who will tell you that writing a children’s book is really easy. I mean – they’re shorter than books for adults, right? Reader – if you meet one of these people, you should give them a stern talking to and a whole lot of finger-wagging. How To Write A Children’s Book In 10 Steps: Know the children’s book marketRead contemporary children’s booksHave a unique ideaCreate relatable charactersPlot using character arcsFind a captivating voiceUse settings and experiences kids recogniseWritre and re-write!Avoid classic mistakes all new writers makeGet an agent Writing books for children isn’t an easy way out. In fact, there are a whole host of new things you have to consider when writing for children that wouldn’t cross the mind of an adult novelist. How do I know? Well, I’ve been writing books for children and young adults since I was just a kid myself. When I began, I thought it was going to be easy, too. Three dead books, over fifty rejections and fourteen years later – I realised that it was a whole lot harder than it looks. Then, I sat down and I followed a set of rules to write a book for Young Adults called ‘Outside’. I sent it to an agent, who offered me representation within forty-four minutes of receiving it. And in January 2019, it was published in the UK by Penguin. It is hard. But you’ve got this. And this blog is going to tell you exactly what you need to write a book that children (and publishers) will love. And even though it’s going to be a difficult ride, I think you’re secretly going to love every minute of it – just like I did. So – where do you start? Know The Children’s Book Market ‘Children’ isn’t a very defined audience. Within that category, you have babies and toddlers, all the way through to teenagers thinking about university. Children’s books are as rich and diverse as children are themselves, so it’s absolutely essential that you know exactly what kind of children you are writing for. The market tends to shift every few years, but in general, the categories within children’s books look a bit like this: Picture Books (0 – 5 years) Between 300 – 1000 words, depending on who the book is aimed at (babies 300, toddlers 500, pre-schoolers 1000).Early Readers (5 – 7 years) Less than 10,000 words. These books can be illustrated and are divided up into chapters.Lower Middle Grade (7 – 9) Between 10,000 – 30,000, depending on the reading age they are best suited for. The lower the reading age, the lower the word count.Middle Grade (9 – 11) Between 30,000 and 60,000. There is a bit more room in Middle Grade to push the boundaries of wordcount and theme, within reason.Teen (12+) Usually around 60,000, but there are books in this category as low as 40,000 and as high as 90,000!YA / Crossover (14+) Over 60,000 words. Fantasy books in this category can push the wordcount to more like 90,000, but usually around 60,000 – 70,000 is the magic number. As you can see, books for younger children are much shorter. To write picture books, you don’t have to rhyme, or even know an illustrator (in fact, some agents prefer writers to submit text minus any artwork, as they find it easier to match these later). You do need to be able to tell a story that will make adults and babies feel all the feels though, within a very short word count. If you ask me, writing picture books might well be the hardest of all of these to perfect – and is one of the most competitive, too. Between ages 7 and 11, the reading ages start to shift. You might have an 8-year-old reading a book written for an 11-year-old, and that is okay! At this point, it’s worth thinking about things in terms of ‘Reading Age’ rather than actual age. Early Readers are for children who are just learning to read, and Lower Middle-Grade tends to be lighter, funny reads. Middle-Grade books are booming at the moment and are often read for pleasure by adults, too (myself included). They can be darker and you can push the wordcount a bit further. You can perhaps take a few more risks, providing the heart of the book is with the characters (more on that later). Then we have Young Adult (YA) fiction. I like to think of this as two categories: Teen and Young Adult / Crossover. Teen fiction tends to focus on topics affecting teenagers around 12-13 years old. They are lighter, sometimes funny books. Young Adult or Crossover fiction can be anything where the protagonist is under 18. They can be romances set in a school, or dark, chilling tales. You can find out more about average novel word counts in this article and how long chapters should be, these aren’t specific to children’s books, but make for an interesting read! Whatever age you choose to write for, ensure you know that market back-to-front. Which leads me to tip number two: Read Contemporary Children’s Books The best way to know your market is to read everything you can that fits into it. Yes, adults can read children’s books for pleasure. Some of the most delicious and astounding books I have read have been for children. Don’t fall into the trap of re-reading the books you enjoyed as a child. The market is constantly evolving and what was publishable ‘way back then’ may not be marketable now. Keep your eye on books that are coming out this year, particularly debuts (as you’ll hopefully be one of those yourself soon!) When you are reading, make notes on things like sentence structure, characters and plot arcs. Is the language simple or sophisticated? What age are the characters? And what twists and turns appear in the story? This will help you no end when it comes to write your own. Have A Unique Idea So, now we come to your own book (woohoo!). And I have some bad news, I’m afraid (boooo). The world of children’s books is incredibly competitive and only the absolute best books stand a chance of getting published. But that’s okay. Because you can make your story into one of those books using this blog post. And it starts with an astounding idea that will make an agent stop scrolling and forget to breathe. Think of your favourite stories. You can usually sum them up in one, hooky line, can’t you? Something like: “Death narrates as a girl steals books in WW2 Munich, as her foster parents conceal a Jewish fist-fighter in their home.” – The Book Thief “A girl has been trapped Inside her whole life, until one day she finds a hole in the wall.” – Okay, so that’s my book, but you get the idea. Your concept needs stakes. It needs to be different. It needs to pique interest. Nothing else will work for this market. Need some help developing an idea like this? Try this free Idea Generator – it comes via an email. You can also learn a lot from this post on How to Get Book Ideas. Create Relatable Characters Okay, so you have your amazing concept that will hook an agent, then a publisher, then eventually a reader. Want to keep them? Then you’ll need to create characters that children can relate to. The first rule for this is to think about their ages in relation to the categories we outlined above. Usually, children like to read about characters a couple of years older than them. In Young Adult fiction, I usually make my characters between 15 and 17. 90% of books for children have children as their central protagonists. The other 10% is usually made up of animals and magical beings, but they will nearly always speak and act like children in that age group. They are hardly ever adults. The next thing is to think about the qualities that children of that age look for in a protagonist. Usually, this is bravery (although this doesn’t mean all characters need to be sword-fighters – there are many different kinds of bravery). Usually they are kind (although not always to everyone all the time). And usually they are quirky in some way – they have some interest or ideals that colour their world and make them interesting. Let’s take an example protagonist. ‘Charlie’ from ‘Charlie Changes into a Chicken’. This is a funny Lower Middle-Grade book, and the main character is a boy who suffers with anxiety. Whenever he gets anxious, he turns into an animal. And with his brother in hospital and the school play coming up, there is a lot to worry about. Although Charlie has something going on that I would hope most children can’t relate to (eg: turning into a pigeon), there’s an awful lot about him that readers want to root for. His anxiety is one – and the book does a lot to normalise this and teach the reader how to deal with it. He’s also a classic ‘good guy’ – always one to attempt to smooth things over with his bully, and worry about his brother. He is brave, kind and quirky. In terms of secondary characters, this book is great at busting stereotypes, and that’s really something to keep in mind when writing (more on this later). You’ve got a smart, scientific friend, as well as those who provide some comic relief. You’ve got an antagonist bully, who we understand. And other grown-up antagonists such as grumpy teachers, and parents who have the ability to be ‘disappointed’. In short, these are all characters that children around 8 years old will relate to and enjoy reading about (As well as grown-up writers who have the mind of an 8-year-old, too!). It’s worth spending time getting to know your characters using something like this Ultimate Character Builder (downloadable via email). This worksheet asks hundreds of questions about your character that forces you to think of answers. Something else I quite like to do (mainly because it is wonderfully fun procrastination) is to use personality tests. Try getting into the mindset of your characters – including secondary characters – and taking the House and Patronus quizzes on Pottermore, for example. You might find out that your protagonist is a Slytherin with a rare winged Patronus, which might affect the way they behave in your plot. Another great tool can be found at 16 Personalities. This asks you a lot of questions and gives you a Myers-Briggs personality type at the end, with pages and pages of information about how that person would react to things like relationships, family and difficult situations. It’s worth spending some time doing some further reading on characterisation. Good places to start include learning about the theory of character development and spending some time making realistic antagonists, alongside your protagonist. Plot Using Character Arcs When it comes to plotting a children’s book, it is useful to keep one bit of advice in mind at all times: Plot is driven by character. Never the other way around. If your characters are at the centre of your story, then you need to ensure that they are the ones driving it forwards. If you shoehorn them into a twist that goes against everything that your character stands for, then readers will be left cold. This is why the primary step to writing a children’s book is to get to know your characters back to front and inside out as we discussed earlier. Once you have a good idea about who they are, you can start using this information to plot your story. There are a number of ways you can plot a book, including methods like the Snowflake Method or using this guide on writing a plot outline. For me, I like to start with something my character wants. This can be simple, like perhaps they are looking forward to an upcoming school trip. Or it can be much bigger than that – like perhaps they want to keep their family safe from being picked for The Hunger Games. Next, you throw something in their path that means they can’t have what they want. They get framed for something they didn’t do at school and are banned from the school trip. Their sister is picked for The Hunger Games and they must volunteer as tribute to protect her from almost certain death. What comes next is a series of incidents that raises action and keeps your character on their journey. They try to sneak onto the school bus, but end up on the wrong one, going instead to France. They get off the bus for a wee and it drives off without them. They try to buy a baguette with their lunch money, but it gets eaten by a dog (which they are afraid of) etc etc. Within this middle point are highs and lows. They meet friends and helpers along the way – usually children their own age, or animals. There might even be other grown-up helpers or antagonists (think about Haymitch and Crane in The Hunger Games). Usually around the mid-point of the story, what your character wants has now changed. The boy on the school trip now wants to find a way to go home. Katniss in The Hunger Games wants to stay alive. This all leads up to the climax of the story – where all the issues you have dropped in before come to a head. There is usually a small battle to be won first – perhaps that is getting over the fear of dogs to save a friend in France, or it is beating the other Careers in order to stay alive in The Hunger Games. Then there is a small dip in action before the big beast is slayed – maybe that is as simple as finally asking for help to go home in France, or it is tricking the makers of The Hunger Games so that they can live. To finish off, we have the resolution. This is where you tie up the questions you set up earlier in the story and resolve differences between characters. Maybe we see the boy return from France and ask his parents for a pet dog. Or Katniss returning home to her family as victor (whilst also leaving something unresolved here with a larger antagonist for book two in the series). Even if you’re not traditionally a plotter, it is worth spending time thinking about the main beats in your story and how this relates to your character’s central journey. Thankfully, there’s loads of help for useless plotters (like me!). Some useful blog plots for further reading are this one on building a plot mountain (which sounds cool, so must be good) and this one on the seven basic plots. There are also some brilliant masterclasses on the subject by the brilliant Jeremy Sheldon and this one from C M Taylor, all free as part of the Jericho Writers membership. Find A Captivating Voice Okay, so you now have the bones of an exciting story down. Excellent. Now – we need to talk about the way you are going to tell this story. The first thing to do is consider what point of view you are going to choose, and then stick to it entirely. The most popular ones in children’s books are either third person (He/She/They), or first person (I/We). You do tend to find books for younger readers tend to be third person, and teen and YA are usually first person – but this isn’t a rule. Try writing a scene using both and see which one feels more natural for you and this story. It’s worth noting that children’s books in second person (You) are few and far between. This is because it’s a difficult thing to do well, and to relate to as a reader. But nothing is ever out of bounds in the world of children’s books, so if you are confident about using this POV, then go for it. Whatever POV you choose, you must, must, MUST have a captivating voice. By ‘Voice’, we mean the way the story is being told – the language and sentence structure used to tell it. In first person, we need to believe that the person telling the story IS a child. In third person, we need that to a lesser degree, but we still need that sense that we are close to a character and understand who they are through their language. Let’s take first person as an example to start with, because it’s a bit easier. A first-person voice can contain any one of the following things to make it a bit different: An accent or dialect (eg: Southern American).Short, matter-of-fact sentences, or long lines with little or no punctuation.Complex language, or simple words.A ‘Frame of Reference’ for understanding the world. For example, if your character loves painting, then you would expect their language to be a fountain of colour, using terms that painters would love. My favourite article on voice is this one from Annabel Pitcher. Do give it a read – she is the master. When creating your voice, it is worth making a note of all the things that might influence the way your character speaks. So, think about where in the world they come from, and the different words they will use. Think about their age. Think about their personalities. Think about their passions and interests. And use all of this to create a voice that is unique to them. This becomes a bit harder when writing in third person. You can use some of this to colour the voice of the narrator, which can be particularly important when writing for younger children, who need to be reading ‘simple’ words along with the protagonists. You can also give the narrator their own voice altogether, as done in The Book Thief and Charlie Changes into a Chicken. Whatever you choose to do, ensure that it is striking and work on it until it feels like ‘you’. It took me around four books to realise what is ‘me’ about my writing – I think sometimes it is one of those things that you need to write to realise! You can find out more about finding your voice here. Use Settings And Experiences Kids Will Recognise So, now we come on to the setting of your book. There are no real rules here when it comes to setting. Books like ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ is set all over the world, within a rickety old house with the legs of a chicken. But even in this book, there are still things included that children will recognise as similar to their own experiences. A feeling of loneliness from travelling all the time. A parental figure. A feeling of being bored when trapped inside the house. With contemporary children’s books, the settings tend to be focused on home, school and other familiar places, such as parks and after-school clubs. If you are writing a book set in the real modern world, then you will probably need to include a school in there somewhere. Some authors do this really well, but I personally hate writing schools. If you’re like me, then setting a book in the summer holidays, or having protagonists who are over sixteen can sometimes be a way around this. For fantasy writers, it’s worth thinking about things like education and home-life when you are world-building, too. Your character may well be going on a huge quest that will take them to the ends of the earth, with no time for school. But even The Hunger Games had lessons in flashback. As I’ve said before, there are no rules here as such. Children’s books can take you to all corners of experiences. But ensure you think about your settings and how a child reader will recognise them. And if you choose to include things like school, then ensure you get that experience right! Write And Rewrite Okay, so now we’re getting to the part where you have to put pen to paper. You’ll read a lot of articles all over the internet that will tell you rules here like “write every day” and “don’t look back on your first draft”. But I don’t want to tell you any of those. Because honestly – writing a book is something every writer does differently, and that’s rather wonderful. Try writing every day, but if you can’t because you have your own kids to worry about, then that is perfectly fine. And maybe try not to spend years perfecting scenes before you get on to the next one (only because you will probably have to delete it later), but if you do need to make something perfect before you can move on, then that’s fine too. Do whatever you need to do to keep writing. I will however say this. First drafts suck. They do. And that is okay. Books aren’t made on the first draft. This is where you let your characters drive that plot, and sometimes they don’t really know what they are doing. Books are made in the next stage – the re-writing. The editing. By getting feedback and working to make something shine. In fact, I personally don’t even do first drafts any more. I call all my first attempts the ‘ditch draft’, because I know that chances are, I’m going to have to bin most of it and start again. I know that sounds a bit long – but again – do whatever you need to do to keep writing. When it comes to re-writing, I personally like to open
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Literary agents for travel non-fiction

So you’ve written a travel memoir and want to find an agent to represent it? Easier said than done, because there are so many agents, with so many preferences and requirements, so many different sites to explore and notes to take. If you’re writing a travel tome, it also needs to set itself apart. Think about what makes books like Into the Wild, Eat Pray Love, or Under the Tuscan Sun appealing to readers. We’ve at least made your agent search easy through AgentMatch. Agentmatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of travel-loving agents, and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. travel) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member.
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Ideas for Writing a Book (and How to Develop Them)

We once got a strange email. It was three lines long, from someone telling us he wanted to write a book. OK. That’s great. The email wasn’t written very well. The spelling wasn’t great. The punctuation – uh – had all fallen off. But none of that was the issue on his mind. His email was simply entitled “Book Ideas“, and he was writing to ask for help. In a word, he wanted us to develop his ideas for writing a book. And here was the thing. He was sure he was a good writer, which is great, but he hadn’t actually written anything. Worse still, he said he didn’t have a single idea for a story, so could we maybe give him one? Right. Yes. I’m sure that’s how Herman Melville got started too. But the fact is, all of us know what it feels like to feel uninspired and stuck in a rut when ideas just won’t come. And this post is all about solving that problem. Where do ideas for a book come from? How do you know if they’re any good? And how can you take your existing ideas and make them better? Big questions, but let’s see what we can do to help. What follows is a simple way to generate good quality ideas that work for you. We know they’re going to work for you, because the ideas come from you. In fact, you already have them in your head right now. All we’re going to do is help you find them. Let’s start. Book Ideas: How To Get Them And What To Do Next Note down your ideas – your daydreams, interests, favourite booksLearn the market by reading your genreStart developing your ideas, jotting down what you know about your future bookGive your ideas time to develop – don’t rush it!Work on your writing skills and technique How To Have Ideas: The Good News Consider this. It’s not a question of forming the idea, but of recognising one (or ones) you already have, so let’s do that. Make lists of: Things you daydream about;Your special interests (medieval churches, IT security, tattoos);Your areas of expertise;Your current passions (things that get you off on a rant or long-winded explanations);Things you loved as a child (amazing how often the child seems to predict the adult, so look back, see what you loved in the past);Books you loved as a child;Books you love now. Write actual lists of these things. Not in one single half hour session, but bit by bit, over time. Let things stew, bubble up. Almost certainly, you’ll find something nagging at you. Something that stays with you after you leave your lists. That there is your idea. Good, huh? But stick with us. We’ve only just got started. How To Handle Ideas For Books (What To Expect) The trouble with inspiration is it never arrives fully formed. Writing is messy. Few novels arrive complete. Most have had to be hacked out of rock. It’s okay, though, if you decide development is easy and fun, and remember ideas take time. You don’t get from nowhere to perfect in one leap. It’s not a generator. It’s an incubator. You don’t find your idea. You grow it. We’ll talk a little more about that shortly but first, ask yourself. Is your book idea any good? Be sure your idea is strong enough to carry you to publication before you start writing. There are techniques for (a) figuring out if your idea is strong enough and (b) adding sparkle to it if it isn’t, fortunately. Learn The Market Read the area, niche, genre in which you are going to write. Read widely. Stay current. Know new names, not just old ones. It’s a massive mistake not to do this, and many new writers don’t. You should, because these are the books your ideal readership is reading. Start Developing Get a sheet of paper and write down what you know about your future book, or interests you’d like your story to make room for, to explore. That might be very little at first. It might be no more than: Antarctic settingSeismologySecret weapons testing That has no characters, no plot arc, no meaningful line of development, but it’s a start. Not just that, but it’s an exciting one. There’s a frisson of interest there already. A stew that might bubble up into something wonderful. So keep going. Whatever comes to mind. Jot down words and sentences. Note down anything that comes to mind around plot events, themes, settings, ideas for your protagonist. Keep listing, see what comes to you. An Example: First Attempt Try out things. So you might find yourself writing things like this: Ex-SAS man turned seismologist is there.Baggage from the past (a mission gone wrong?).Meets Olga, glamorous Russian geologist. How do you feel about those? Take a moment to see what your actual reactions are. Me personally, I think the ex-Special Forces seismologist could be a decent character, but the glamorous Russian Olga feels like a bit of a cliche. I feel I’ve seen her too often before. And the ‘baggage from the past / mission gone wrong’ element feels dangerously on the edge of cliche. That’s fine. Remember that this whole process is a development exercise. So you can try things out, see how they feel, and discard them as much as you like. Discarding stuff is good – that shows that you’re pruning the bad stuff and keeping only the good stuff. Just add explosions … An Example: Second Attempt So maybe we try again. We might start sketching something like this. Leila – who is ex-Special Forces – is a British seismologist.She loves extreme adventure, including climbing, sky-diving.She’s sampling ice cores to track past earth disturbances.She finds weird, inexplicable traces – too recent.A multinational team – many scientists there.Russian scientist, aloof, unnerving (will turn out a ‘good guy’). … … And so on. Maybe we haven’t yet nailed much with this list, but it’s the forward-back process of development that brings rewards, helping you make subsequent connections (e.g. perhaps you decide Leila’s the only woman on that team, perhaps she needs to prove she’s as strong as any of them, etc., etc.). The only test of whether a list like this works is whether you have a deep-ending tickle of excitement about your jottings. If that fades, you’ve gone wrong somewhere, so find out which element isn’t working, delete, and try again, following your intuition. Remember that the process of story development is one of constant experiment. You sketch something out. You see how it feels. It feels good? OK, great. You continue to add depth to your sketch. (Add a character, a possible plot point, some more about settings, some more about the challenge to be faced, etc.) It feels wrong? OK. So scratch out the thing that felt wrong. Try something else in its place. Or if you can’t find (say) the right antagonist for the moment, then leave that issue for the moment and turn to an area where you do have some good ideas. You’ll find that as you build up one area of the story (say, settings), you’ll find that other parts (say, your antagonist) suddenly flash into view. Each part of the story illuminates and supports the others. How To Give Your Story The “X-factor” And as you’re doing this, remember that readers always want something new, something unexpected. So give it to them! The way to do this is to make sure that your list of story ingredients always includes a rogue element – something that you don’t expect to be there. That rogue element will always have the effect of lifting the story and giving the reader a little thrill of excitement. What’s more the rule basically applies to ALL huge-selling novels of recent years. For example: BORING STORY: a normal American teen falls in love with a normal American boy.GREAT STORY: a normal American teen falls in love with a vampire. Two versions of the same thing. One is too dull to cross a room for. The other one (Twilight) was one of the biggest YA sensations of all time. Or how about this: BORING STORY: a journalist investigates a murder in Sweden.GREAT STORY: a journalist plus a bisexual, Aspergers, rape-surviving, computer genius combine forces to investigate a murder in Sweden. The “rogue element” of Lisbeth Salander’s kick-ass character basically gave the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy the fire it needed to conquer the world. And so on. You can look at any huge selling hit of recent years and find that unexpected ingredient that blasted the book to international success. And you can repeat that trick for yourself. If you find your story is just too expected, then throw in something to freshen it up. So, let’s go with this Arctic idea, and let’s say that your draft story looks something a bit like this. FIRST DRAFT STORY:Leila, ex-Special Forces British seismologist is sampling ice cores in the Antarctic.She finds evidence of recent blast activity – human-made.She suspects of team of Russian scientists are really testing a new type of nuclear device.She investigates.The situation escalates.It resolves itself in a dramatic shoot-out. And what are your feelings there? I’m going to guess that you thought, roughly, “Yeah, that’s OK, but it doesn’t really set my pulse racing.” And the issue is that everything is exactly what you’d expect. It’s as though we read this story plan, and already feel like we’ve read that book or something very similar. So now let’s apply our rogue element strategy and see how the story might run. STORY WITH ROGUE ELEMENTLeila, ex-Special Forces British seismologist is sampling ice cores in the Antarctic.She finds evidence of recent disturbances that make no sense.And there are thefts from the camp – unexplained>At first the Russian team is suspected, but – caught out with a Russian captain, Arkady, in a snowstorm – it looks like Leila and Arkady will both perish. But they’re saved – mysteriously – as fresh kerosene is added to their supplies.Leila and Arkady come to believe they are dealing with the ghosts of Scott’s tragic expedition to the Antarctic.They realise the souls of Scott and his men are trapped in the ice and are only seeking escape. Leila & Arkady use their knowhow and technical resources to liberate the ghosts. How’s that? Personally, I’m not yet sure about it – I literally just this minute came up with the idea – but I will say this: You were not expecting that story to emerge. You’ve never read anything like it before. Already, it has a grip over your imagination that the first version never did. In fact, if we took the bones of that story and really did some work with it, I’d say we’d have the chance to create something really extraordinary. A story that no one had ever read before, or would ever forget. The short moral of this example is obvious: Yes, the process of story development is intuitive, trial-and-error, and has plenty of dead ends. But it’s not random. Good stories follow a formula, which can be put roughly as follows: Your passions + a rogue element = a great story If you want to structure that process some more – and you should – then do use our idea generator, available on this page. It’s great, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to work. Remember To Give Yourself Time Give yourself time to muse over your book. If all this takes a week, it’s taken you too little time. Three months would be good, but if it takes six months, that’s fine, too. Jack Kerouac, famed for writing his draft for On the Road in twenty-one days, pondered his ideas for years. My most successful novel (Harry Bingham writing) was two years in development, then written within two months – so development matters. Real inspiration takes time, care, effort, and thought. Technique Matters, Too Often, new writers can give up on a project by starting in a rush, noticing things aren’t quite working. They don’t quite know how to analyse what isn’t working, though, so give up – probably convinced that they don’t have the talent. And that’s not just untrue, but a shame. Writing books takes time and needs patience. It is also tough, and some new writers spend no time learning how to do it. The best solution? Simple: Get expert helpHang out with supportive writer-friendsImprove your technique And you know what? Jericho Writers is a club for writers like you and was set up to help writers like you. Here are a few blog posts that’ll help you on your way: how to write seven basic plots, beating writer’s block, and top tips for debut writers. While you’re there you should also check out our range of creative writing courses and the editorial services we offer – both of which are designed to support you and the writing process. We’ve helped loads of people write books, get agents, and get published (or, very successfully, self-published), and that includes loads of people who started out without having tons of education / knowing people in the industry / being a super-genius / spending 20 years on retreat in the Canadian wilderness, or anything else. You can find out what Jericho Writers can offer its members right here. We’d absolutely love it if you joined us, and look forward to welcoming you. About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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US agents for romance

From Jane Austen and onwards, romantic fiction is one of the most popular of all genres. There are plenty of romance-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  Jessica Alvarez Rachel Beck Beth Campbell Susanna Einstein Thao Le Nikki Terpilowski Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein  Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! Agents Looking For Romance Authors Although Romance is a popular genre, it hasn’t necessarily always got the respect it deserves. Romance is generally used in modern publishing to distinguish between ‘women’s fiction’ (this is fairly literary, upmarket and serious) from ‘romance.’ A term normally associated with happily mass-market brands such as Mills & Boon and Black Lace, as well as fun, frolicky romances from big publishers.  As the genre is so broad, it’s not enough to simply look for agents with an interest in women’s fiction. You need to find those who are expressly interested in fiction at the more commercial end of the market. You can find the agents interested in representing Romance here, on AgentMatch.
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Amanda Berriman, author of ‘Home’, on getting an agent

Guest author and blogger Mandy Berriman shares with us how she hooked her literary agent and the importance of never giving up. I went to a family wedding earlier this year. At our places at dinner, we each had a name card with a quote on the back. Mine read: I have one talent; I never give up. We laughed at the aptness, but it was also a well-timed personal reminder to me. Keep going, you’re almost there, don’t give up. And on I went with the current rewrite, kicking the doubt demons into the dust along the way. I think it is possible that in the history of Jericho Writers (The Writers’ Workshop), I hold the longest record for not giving up: eleven years, two months and 26 days, to be precise. I was one of their earliest clients with my nine chapters of an unfinished ghost novel for children. It was the first piece of fiction I’d written since leaving school and although I had experienced a huge buzz writing it, I’d taken a year and a half to get to Chapter 9 and then stalled. Was it any good? Did I even know what I was doing? Could I actually write a whole novel? After uttering once too often, ‘but how do I know if I can actually do this?’, my husband found The Writers’ Workshop and told me to go and find out. A few weeks later, I had a report back from Harry. The gist: yes, you can do this, and here are all the things you need to learn about writing. That was June 2005, and I haven’t stopped learning since – Arvon, reciprocal critiquing arrangements, constructive feedback from agents, self-editing, six Festivals of Writing, mentoring from outstanding Debi Alper, and always the ongoing support and encouragement from the team here. I spent many years on that original novel (writing, finishing, rewriting, editing, finishing again, rewriting, editing, finishing again), and I came very close with a number of agents, including one who read, offered feedback, and re-read several times over a period of three or four years, and my opening chapter was shortlisted at 2012’s Festival of Writing, but I never quite jumped the agent hurdle. I decided to put the novel in the drawer and move on. I’d been writing and rewriting it for nine years and was desperate for a change. I started a second children’s novel and rediscovered that buzz of fresh, no-idea-where-it’s-going writing. But fitting it in around two children and an increasingly demanding job meant progress was slow and I struggled with motivation. I dabbled in other bits and pieces, never settling on anything, but I started to write short stories and flash fiction in different styles and voices, and quite a step away from the children’s fiction where I felt comfortable. In 2013, several things happened to dramatically change my direction and fire my motivation. Firstly, I moved jobs to one that was far more creative, allowing me to focus on my passion for music and step back from time-consuming paperwork. Secondly, my youngest son started preschool freeing up a precious few daytime hours in which to write. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, Stories for Homes happened. Debi and her friend, Sally Swingewood, decided they wanted to create an anthology of short stories and poems on a theme of ‘home’ to raise money for Shelter. Debi asked for submissions of stories, techy help, proofreading and so on. I was determined to make progress on my children’s novel and I had no story ideas, so I replied to say that I would help where I could but doubted it would be in story form. However, just before the story deadline, I read Claire King’s The Night Rainbow, a wonderful, inspiring novel written from the POV of a five-year-old girl. (Read it!) Its themes are not about homelessness, but it sparked a thought – what does homelessness look like, feel like, smell like to a young child? And there was Jesika with her hands on her hips and that look she gets on her face when an adult is being really silly, wondering out loud why it took me for ages to notice her. I wrote and edited Jesika’s story in a week and sent it to Debi and Sally just in time for the deadline. They loved it. They made it the first story in the book. The book was filled with sixty or so other fantastic stories and poems and the book went on sale and raised over £2,000 for Shelter. (It’s still on sale, still raising money for Shelter.) I was very proud to be a small part of the overall project and when the excitement died down, I returned to the children’s novel. Except Jesika had other ideas. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I realised that one short story was not going to satisfy her. I’ve spent the last three years writing, rewriting and editing Jesika’s novel. In that time, Debi has continued to mentor me and I’ve been to four Festivals, each time taking a little bit of Jesika’s story with me for my one-to-ones. In 2013, all three agents told me they loved the voice, and they’d love to see more. (I wasn’t finished, so made a note of their names). In 2014, I saw two more agents who loved the voice, but weren’t convinced I could sustain it (and I still hadn’t finished it, so I couldn’t prove them wrong). However, that year I also went to a workshop run by Shelley Harris and because of a piece of writing I scribbled for one of her tasks, she introduced me to her agent, Jo Unwin, and we talked about the novel and she gave me encouragement to continue. In early 2015, I finished the first draft and started rewriting. In 2015, I submitted to Jo as one of my one-to-ones. She loved it and wanted to see more, and then after the festival, one of the agents I saw in 2013 asked to see the first chapter. She also loved it and wanted to see more, but the rewrite wasn’t finished. It took me a year to finish – during an emotionally challenging year and with enormous help from Debi’s editorial genius – and just before the 2016 festival, I was ready to submit again. I had two agent one-to-ones arranged and I emailed Jo Unwin and the other agent to ask if they wanted to see it, too. I assumed that nothing much would happen for a few months, and then I’d look at any feedback I got from the agents and talk to Debi about further rewrites. What did happen was I ended up with four agents reading the full manuscript, two making me an offer of representation, one taking me out for lunch and me having a choice to make – all in the space of three and a half weeks! I’m delighted to say (and still pinching myself when I say it) that I chose Jo Unwin. I know that this is one more hurdle in a series of hurdles and who knows what comes next, but I’m very excited to have arrived at a place I’ve been working towards for so long and so grateful for the day my husband handed me The Writers’ Workshop info and told me to get on with it. I stepped through a door that day that led me to so many fantastic opportunities, wonderful people and great friends – and I am the writer I am today because of them. Back in 2007, Harry posted about me on a now-dead blog to congratulate me on that initial success of finding an agent who believed enough in my first novel to offer feedback and ask to read it again. He acknowledged there were no guarantees that it would lead to representation but he said, ‘I bet Mandy makes it though. And I bet she sells well when she does. Certainly hope so.’ I printed that blog off and pinned it up to remind me to keep going, and I did keep going. Thank you, Harry. And thank you to everyone else along the way who believed I could do this. Lastly, incredibly, one of the many agents who rejected my children’s novel five years ago is the agent I’m now signed with as my book heads to publication with Doubleday. My advice: be rejected, crawl away and weep in a corner, look at feedback, eat chocolate, learn, re-read feedback, swear, try new things, get involved with other writers, allow your writing to be critiqued, learn more, delete, rewrite, edit, throw the whole lot in the bin for a day – but never give up!
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Literary agents for romance

Guest author and blogger Mandy Berriman shares with us how she hooked her literary agent and the importance of never giving up. I went to a family wedding earlier this year. At our places at dinner, we each had a name card with a quote on the back. Mine read: I have one talent; I never give up. We laughed at the aptness, but it was also a well-timed personal reminder to me. Keep going, you’re almost there, don’t give up. And on I went with the current rewrite, kicking the doubt demons into the dust along the way. I think it is possible that in the history of Jericho Writers (The Writers’ Workshop), I hold the longest record for not giving up: eleven years, two months and 26 days, to be precise. I was one of their earliest clients with my nine chapters of an unfinished ghost novel for children. It was the first piece of fiction I’d written since leaving school and although I had experienced a huge buzz writing it, I’d taken a year and a half to get to Chapter 9 and then stalled. Was it any good? Did I even know what I was doing? Could I actually write a whole novel? After uttering once too often, ‘but how do I know if I can actually do this?’, my husband found The Writers’ Workshop and told me to go and find out. A few weeks later, I had a report back from Harry. The gist: yes, you can do this, and here are all the things you need to learn about writing. That was June 2005, and I haven’t stopped learning since – Arvon, reciprocal critiquing arrangements, constructive feedback from agents, self-editing, six Festivals of Writing, mentoring from outstanding Debi Alper, and always the ongoing support and encouragement from the team here. I spent many years on that original novel (writing, finishing, rewriting, editing, finishing again, rewriting, editing, finishing again), and I came very close with a number of agents, including one who read, offered feedback, and re-read several times over a period of three or four years, and my opening chapter was shortlisted at 2012’s Festival of Writing, but I never quite jumped the agent hurdle. I decided to put the novel in the drawer and move on. I’d been writing and rewriting it for nine years and was desperate for a change. I started a second children’s novel and rediscovered that buzz of fresh, no-idea-where-it’s-going writing. But fitting it in around two children and an increasingly demanding job meant progress was slow and I struggled with motivation. I dabbled in other bits and pieces, never settling on anything, but I started to write short stories and flash fiction in different styles and voices, and quite a step away from the children’s fiction where I felt comfortable. In 2013, several things happened to dramatically change my direction and fire my motivation. Firstly, I moved jobs to one that was far more creative, allowing me to focus on my passion for music and step back from time-consuming paperwork. Secondly, my youngest son started preschool freeing up a precious few daytime hours in which to write. Thirdly, and probably most importantly, Stories for Homes happened. Debi and her friend, Sally Swingewood, decided they wanted to create an anthology of short stories and poems on a theme of ‘home’ to raise money for Shelter. Debi asked for submissions of stories, techy help, proofreading and so on. I was determined to make progress on my children’s novel and I had no story ideas, so I replied to say that I would help where I could but doubted it would be in story form. However, just before the story deadline, I read Claire King’s The Night Rainbow, a wonderful, inspiring novel written from the POV of a five-year-old girl. (Read it!) Its themes are not about homelessness, but it sparked a thought – what does homelessness look like, feel like, smell like to a young child? And there was Jesika with her hands on her hips and that look she gets on her face when an adult is being really silly, wondering out loud why it took me for ages to notice her. I wrote and edited Jesika’s story in a week and sent it to Debi and Sally just in time for the deadline. They loved it. They made it the first story in the book. The book was filled with sixty or so other fantastic stories and poems and the book went on sale and raised over £2,000 for Shelter. (It’s still on sale, still raising money for Shelter.) I was very proud to be a small part of the overall project and when the excitement died down, I returned to the children’s novel. Except Jesika had other ideas. She wouldn’t leave me alone. I realised that one short story was not going to satisfy her. I’ve spent the last three years writing, rewriting and editing Jesika’s novel. In that time, Debi has continued to mentor me and I’ve been to four Festivals, each time taking a little bit of Jesika’s story with me for my one-to-ones. In 2013, all three agents told me they loved the voice, and they’d love to see more. (I wasn’t finished, so made a note of their names). In 2014, I saw two more agents who loved the voice, but weren’t convinced I could sustain it (and I still hadn’t finished it, so I couldn’t prove them wrong). However, that year I also went to a workshop run by Shelley Harris and because of a piece of writing I scribbled for one of her tasks, she introduced me to her agent, Jo Unwin, and we talked about the novel and she gave me encouragement to continue. In early 2015, I finished the first draft and started rewriting. In 2015, I submitted to Jo as one of my one-to-ones. She loved it and wanted to see more, and then after the festival, one of the agents I saw in 2013 asked to see the first chapter. She also loved it and wanted to see more, but the rewrite wasn’t finished. It took me a year to finish – during an emotionally challenging year and with enormous help from Debi’s editorial genius – and just before the 2016 festival, I was ready to submit again. I had two agent one-to-ones arranged and I emailed Jo Unwin and the other agent to ask if they wanted to see it, too. I assumed that nothing much would happen for a few months, and then I’d look at any feedback I got from the agents and talk to Debi about further rewrites. What did happen was I ended up with four agents reading the full manuscript, two making me an offer of representation, one taking me out for lunch and me having a choice to make – all in the space of three and a half weeks! I’m delighted to say (and still pinching myself when I say it) that I chose Jo Unwin. I know that this is one more hurdle in a series of hurdles and who knows what comes next, but I’m very excited to have arrived at a place I’ve been working towards for so long and so grateful for the day my husband handed me The Writers’ Workshop info and told me to get on with it. I stepped through a door that day that led me to so many fantastic opportunities, wonderful people and great friends – and I am the writer I am today because of them. Back in 2007, Harry posted about me on a now-dead blog to congratulate me on that initial success of finding an agent who believed enough in my first novel to offer feedback and ask to read it again. He acknowledged there were no guarantees that it would lead to representation but he said, ‘I bet Mandy makes it though. And I bet she sells well when she does. Certainly hope so.’ I printed that blog off and pinned it up to remind me to keep going, and I did keep going. Thank you, Harry. And thank you to everyone else along the way who believed I could do this. Lastly, incredibly, one of the many agents who rejected my children’s novel five years ago is the agent I’m now signed with as my book heads to publication with Doubleday. My advice: be rejected, crawl away and weep in a corner, look at feedback, eat chocolate, learn, re-read feedback, swear, try new things, get involved with other writers, allow your writing to be critiqued, learn more, delete, rewrite, edit, throw the whole lot in the bin for a day – but never give up!
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How to get a US agent for your crime thriller

There’s a common misconception that if you’re a crime or thriller writer you need an agent who focuses solely on those genres. But agents typically have eclectic tastes and like to diversify their list. If you go to a leading crime agent, you may just become one in a number of crime authors. But, if you find an agent who appeals to you and whose client list is a little light on crime titles, then your book could be just what they’re looking for. US Crime And Thriller Agents There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles. After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s a few crime/thriller agents to get you started: Jessica Alvarez Amelia Appel Noah Ballard Rachel Beck  Danielle Egan-Miller  Donald Mass  Evan Marshall  Kiana Nguyen Joy Tutela Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  How To Target Submissions It’s important that you find an agent that is interested in representing crime or thriller novels. A little targeting of potential agents is fine, as long as you don’t overdo it. There are two things that we always advise querying authors to consider, when they’re searching for agents:  Check who represents your favourite author. Even if your favourite author writes women’s fiction or literary fiction, you may find that you and the agent share a taste for a certain kind of writing and have something in common. Research agents that represent good but lesser known authors in your genre. If you were to query Dan Brown’s agent, for instance, that would certainly be a waste of time as his desk would undoubtedly be covered in various conspiracy-thriller-manuscripts. Whereas, if you find a pool of talented thriller authors that haven’t yet hit the big time, those agents are more likely to be open to seeing submissions from querying authors.  If you’re still convinced that the only way to publication is through a Very Well-Known Agent, then have a think about this:  The Very Well-Known Agent will have a long list of Big-Name clients (sometimes over a hundred!). Do you want to be the least important on that list? A Very Well-Known Agent may not be looking for debut writers at all. Any additions to their client list will likely be established authors moving agencies. Selling a book to a publisher, isn’t rocket science. If the agent is competent and can sell a literary novel, for example, then they have all the skills to sell any other genre too. If an agent’s contacts are weak in one area, then after a few phone calls that’s easily rectified. The exception being fantasy or science fiction and children’s fiction; both markets are pretty specialist. Publishers want to find wonderful, saleable books. They won’t care who the agent is that submits it to them. All that matters is that a) the editor loves the manuscript, and b) enough other people in the company love it, too. Ultimately, all that really matters is your writing.  You can read up on more tips for crime and thriller writing, here. If you’re writing a police procedural crime novel, then this article on researching those procedures is everything you need to read today! 
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US agents for popular science

Looking for an agent that represents popular science non-fiction work? Then look no further, we answer all your questions here. Plus, we’ll even introduce a few agents you should query! There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Jessica Alvarez   Danielle Egan-Miller Regina Brooks  Annie Hwang Jody Kahn  Adam Schear Frank Weimann  Cindy Uh Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  The Market Authors of popular science and psychology are more popular than ever. Stephen Hawking, Oliver Sacks and Michio Kaku, to name a few.   Regardless of the ebook revolution and its impact on the publishing market, it remains the case that for countless areas of the book trade that traditional publishers still dominate. Your most likely route to those publishers will be via literary agents.  It’s important to remember that no agents only specialise in popular science. Your agent is likely to represent a range of areas including serious and topical non-fiction, fiction, as well as other lighter non-fiction subjects, too. This doesn’t mean that your agent won’t have the necessary connections. He or she will have them and will be motivated to place your work in the best (and most lucrative) place possible.  Best of luck! 
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US agents for food & cookery books

The food and cookery market remains a dependable corner of the book market. Agents Representing Food And Cookery Books There are plenty of cookery-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  Rica Allannic  Jennifer Chen Tran  Mark Gottlieb  Sandy Lu Amanda Jain   Deborah Schneider Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! THE MARKET This is an area dominated by full-colour, hard-copy books. The ebook revolution has done little to change the basic market. Which is good news.  The bad news is that this means the market dynamics are very challenging for debut authors in this area. A sure-fire way to get a cookbook published is to have a TV show first. Or a column in a national newspaper. Or, you’re a celebrity. But for ordinary cookery writers, it is hard to get published. It’s hard to get publishers interested enough to invest in a book, not only because the high production quality means that a book needs to shift a lot of copies to break into profit.  There are still opportunities for new debut writers. Especially if you are an expert in an under-explored area of food and drink. 
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UK Literary Agents, the Complete List (with Links to Agent Profiles)

Includes all literary agents currently active in the UK. Literary agents are the gatekeepers, right? The people who stand between you and admittance to the Promised Land of traditional publishing. Well, in a way, yes. No large publisher takes work seriously unless it comes to them via a literary agent, so you do need that seal of approval . . . But even before you get to the happy stage of fretting about all that, there’s one more issue on your mind. How do I even know which UK Literary agents to pitch to? And additionally: How can I even find a list of UK literary agents accepting submissions from new writers? Well, we have the answers to both questions. You should probably read everything in this blog post, because you’ll find it helpful. But if all you want to do is skip straight down to our list of agents, you can do so here: Jump Straight to List of Agents If you actually want a list of US literary agents, then you need to be here instead. Literary Agents: All You Need To Know Agents sell manuscripts to publishersAll the agents in the UK are listed on this pageYou need to shortlist 10-12 agentsWrite a synopsisWrite a query letterSubmit your work to your shortlisted agentKeep your fingers crossed How Do I Know Which Literary Agents To Approach? My granny once gave me some great advice on gardening. She said, “Always grow plants that you like, and that like you back.” So don’t go planting clematis if you don’t like clematis. And if you do like clematis, but those darn things keep dying on you, then just move on. Plant something different. Good rule, right? And it applies to literary agencies and UK literary agents too. We’ll start with the first part of Granny’s Rule: Find The UK Literary Agents Who Want You You need to approach literary agents who are keen to hear from people like you. It’s pointless wasting your energy on the rest. That means you want UK literary agents who: Are open to submissions in your genre.Either welcome submissions from new writers or are, at least, open to great new slushpile submissions. So if, for example, you’re a crime writer, and a literary agent is open to submissions from crime writers, and if that agent welcomes slushpile submissions, then you need to pop that literary agent on your longlist. That’s a good start, but agents aren’t very specialist and in most cases, your longlist will be something like 100+ names long. Yikes! The second half of Granny’s Rule enables you to reduce that total to something manageable. Here’s how it works: Finding The UK Literary Agents You Want Take your longlist and pick out any UK literary agents that you especially like the sound of: Maybe they represent some of your favourite authors in your genre.Or they represent a favourite author in a different genre, even.Or they don’t represent a particular favourite writer of yours, but they have commented admiringly on that author.You have particular reason to like or admire the agent’s literary agency.They share a passion of yours. (For example, your book is in part about Greece, and you notice this agent has Greek ancestry, or runs writing retreats in Greece, or represents books about the country, etc)They made a comment in a blog / on YouTube / at our Festival of Writing / or anywhere else . . . and for whatever reason that comment struck a chord in you.And it’s OK if your reason is dumb. Maybe you like an agent’s face! Or you think their name sounds cute (which is how JK Rowling came across her first literary agent, Christopher Little.) Really, you’re just looking for points of contact that make sense given your (relatively scant) information resources. You are looking for about 12 names in total. (Oh, and this page isn’t a complete guide to getting an agent. You can get that here. You can get help on your query letter here, and your synopsis here. You can get an overview of all your options on how to get published right here if you need it. Phew!) Ways Not To Search For UK Literary Agents There are two common ways to search for literary agents and neither of them are smart. Dumb agent search method #1Send your stuff only to the industry’s most high-profile UK literary agents OK, if you happen to be called Ms Meghan Markle and you have an autobiography to sell, this would be a great strategy. For anyone else? It’s dumb. The highest profile agents have the glossiest client lists. That means (a) they probably won’t take you on, (b) they probably won’t even read your work, and (c) even if they did they would have a lot less time for you than a newer, hungrier agent would. Why would you want that person? Answer: you don’t. Dumb agent search method #2Only apply to UK literary agents close to where you live If you live in central London or New York, that’s a perfectly fine approach. If you live anywhere else, it’s dumb. Agents cluster in major cities because that’s where the publishers are. You do need your agent to be in constant touch with publishers. You do not need your agent to physically meet you often. Quite honestly? Once a year would be fine – and you’ll be in town least that often to see your publishers. Literary Agents: The Complete UK List Want Access To All The Data? Want To Unlock Those Search Tools? The list below is a complete list of UK literary agents. If you follow the links, you’ll find profile summaries for each agent – but the full data will remain locked. To get complete access, just go here and sign up for your free account. It’s fast, secure and free. Sheila AblemanStephanie AdamMichael AlcockClare AlexanderJulian AlexanderDarley AndersonNelle AndrewDavinia Andrew LynchSusan ArmstrongFrances ArnoldIsabel AthertonBecky BagnellLisa BakerSarah BallardKate BarkerNicola BarrTim BatesVeronique BaxterDiana BeaumontEddie BellJune BellLorella BelliMichael BerentiJohn BerlyneFranca BernataviciusTina BettsVictoria BirkettNeil BlairPiers BlofeldFelicity BluntLuigi BonomiGeorgie BouzSuzie BrearleyJanice BrentPhilippa BrewsterCharlie BrotherstoneJenny BrownFelicity BryanLouise BuckleyPeter BuckmanKate BurkeLouise BurnsJuliet BurtonSteve CalcuttRachel CalderCharlie CampbellGeorgina CapelAmber CaraveoMegan CarrollRebecca CarterRobert CaskieJames CatchpoleSarah ChalfantNiki ChangJennifer ChapmanKathy CharvinMic CheethamCatherine ChoTeresa ChrisJennifer ChristieJulia ChurchillBen ClarkCatherine ClarkeAnne ClarkeMary ClemmeyAlexander CochranGill ColeridgeCharlotte ColwillClaire ConradKevin Conroy ScottClare ConvilleRachel ConwayJonathan ConwayJane Conway GordonGeraldine CookeElinor CooperGemma CooperSam CopelandJamie CowenPeter CoxNemonie Craven RoderickJulie CrispAnnette CrosslandSheila CrowleyCaroline DavidsonStephen DaviesMeg DavisAnna DavisCaroline DawnayShruti DebiHilary DelamereCaspian DennisJoanna DevereuxElla Diamond KahnElise DillsworthRob DinsdaleIsobel DixonBroo DohertyAnne Marie DoultonIan DruryRobert DudleyToby EadyRos EdwardsStephen EdwardsDarren EdwardsJon ElekBill EllisAnn EvansFaith EvansLisa EveleighNatasha FairweatherAriella FeinerPaul FeldsteinSusan FeldsteinHannah FergusonJulie FergussonSamantha FerrisJane FiniganEmma FinnPeter FischerJemima ForresterChelsey FoxWill FrancisLindsey FraserJulian FriedmannHelenka FuglewiczEugenie FurnissJuri GabrielNatalie GalustianLeslie GardnerGeorgia GarrettAdam GauntlettJonny GellerJames GillKerry GlencorseStephanie GlencrossGeorgia GloverDavid GodwinAnthony GoffBill GoodallAndrew GordonSophie Gorell BarnesJane Graham MawAnnette GreenChristine GreenVivien GreenLouise GreenbergKatie GreenstreetJane GregoryDavid GrossmanOlivia GuestMarianne Gunn O ConnorAllan GuthrieCassian HallMargaret HaltonMatthew HamiltonBill HamiltonSamar HammamMargaret HanburyCaroline HardmanAnthony HarwoodJohn HavergalDavid HavilandJosephine HayesDavid HeadleyRupert HeathCarol HeatonAndrew HewsonJenny HewsonSophie HicksVictoria HobbsJodie HodgesHeather Holden BrownSally HollowayPenny HolroydeVanessa HoltKate HordernValerie HoskinsCharlotte HowardTanja HowarthClare HultonBen IllisBarrie JamesKaren JamesPeter Janson SmithJohn JarroldCara JonesRobin JonesLucy JuckesJane JuddCarrie KaniaSimon KavanaghMariam KeenFrances KellyMolly Ker HawnCaradoc KingZoe KingRobert KirbyPeter KnightAndrew KnightLizzy KremerLaurence LaluyauxSophie LambertLouise LamontSonia LandRowan LawtonPippa Le QuesneSusanna LeaCat LedgerBarbara LevyFiona LindsayChristopher LittleMandy LittleJonathan LloydPat LomaxLaura LongriggAndrew LownieMark LucasLucy LuckJennifer LuithlenPenny LuithlenNicky LundSarah LutyensAlice LutyensDavid LuxtonAngus MacDonaldLaura MacDougallJames Macdonald LockhartSarah ManningSarah MansonMatthew MarlandSylvie MarstonJoanna MarstonGaby MartinBlanche MarvinDuncan McAraKirsty McLachlanGill McLayEunice McMullenAnnabel MerulloCaroline MichelMadeleine MilburnNancy MilesRachel MillsPhilippa Milnes SmithAmy MitchellSilvia MolteniDoreen MontgomeryCaroline MontgomeryPaul MoretonJoanna MoultLisa MoylettIvan MulcahyToby MundyOliver MunsonJudith MurrayJuliet MushensJean NaggarKate NashRuth NeedhamGeraldine NicholPeta NightingalePolly NolanAndrew NurnbergFaith OGradyHellie OgdenGabriele PantucciEmma PatersonPhilip PattersonJohn PawseyTony PeakeMaggie PearlstineClare PearsonJonathan PeggImogen PelhamCatherine PellegrinoNorah PerkinsFiona PetheramJuliet PickeringRichard PikeCarrie PlittKevin PocklingtonLesley PollingerAnna PowerShelley PowerAmanda PrestonLiz PuttickAoife RiceDavid RidingRebecca RitchiePeter RobinsonGuy RoseKathryn RossZoe RossStephanie RoundsmithElizabeth RoyFelicity RubinsteinGeorgina RuffheadJonathan RuppinUli Rushby SmithGillie RussellLaetitia RutherfordJohn SaddlerDarryl SamaraweeraRosemary SandbergAlice SaundersJenny SavillMarilia SavvidesSandra SawickaVivienne SchusterRosemary ScoularRichard ScrivenerMike SharlandLinda ShaughnessyKate ShawElizabeth SheinkmanCaroline SheldonHannah SheppardCamilla ShestopalJulia SilkDorie SimmondsJeffrey SimmonsChristopher Sinclair StevensonDeborah Sinclair StevensonMichael SissonsPhilippa SittersDavid SmithSusan SmithRobert SmithYasmin StandenMark StantonElaine SteelRochelle StevensShirley StewartPeter StrausSarah SuchMandy SuhrAlex SullivanCathryn SummerhayesLaura SusijnAlice Sutherland-HawesKarolina SuttonJoanna SwainsonSallyanne SweeneyPeter TallackBecky ThomasLesley ThorneEuan ThorneycroftJon ThurleyStephanie ThwaitesAntony ToppingLavinia TrevorFelicity TrewSimon TrewinJane TurnbullDiana TylerJo UnwinGilly VincentCharlie VineyRobin WadeAmy WaiteZoë WaldieCharles WalkerClare WallacePatrick WalshCaroline WalshRebecca WatsonAnna WebberChris WellbeloveRosie WelshLaura WestIsabel WhitePat WhiteEve WhiteAraminta WhitleyDinah WienerVicki Willden LebrechtAlice WilliamsAnne WilliamsLaura WilliamsSarah WilliamsJo WilliamsonJane WillisJames WillsEd WilsonClaire WilsonDonald WinchesterRebecca WinfieldGordon WiseRomily WithingtonCaroline WoodBryony WoodsJessica WoollardCamilla WrayAndrew WylieSusan YearwoodClaudia YoungGeorgia de ChamberetJonathan sissons
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How to Plot a Novel (Using our Easy Plot Template Technique)

All stories share a simple common structure, right? So the simplest way to outline your novel (or any type of story) is to use that universal template by way of scaffolding. And you do need to use some kind of novel outline before you start writing. Plotting a novel from scratch? Imagining the whole thing in your head before you start? That’s hard. Or, scratch that, it’s pretty much impossible. So don’t do it. Cheat. Use a simple, dependable template to build an outline of your novel, then slowly fill out the detail. Yes, filling in the detail can be a slow and tricky process. But you don’t care. Because if your basic outline is strong (and the idea that lies behind it is strong), you can’t really go wrong. And figuring out that template and how best to use it is exactly what we’re going to do in this post. (Or – full disclosure – it’s what you’re going to do. We’ll just help a little on the way . . .) Novel Outline Template In A Nutshell You just need to figure out: Main character (who leads the story)Status Quo (situation at the start)Motivation (what your character wants)Initiating incident (what disturbs the status quo)Developments (what happens next)Crisis (how things come to a head)Resolution (how things resolve) What A Story Template Looks Like Use a simple plot outline to get your ideas straight Let’s start simple. And that means, yep, that YOU need to start simple. Get a sheet of paper or notebook and have it by you as you work your way through this post. Ready? Pencil sharp and ready to go? So do this: Write down the following headings: Main characters Status Quo Motivation Initiating Incident Developments Crisis Resolution Simple right? And now sketch in your answers in as few words as possible. That means a maximum of 1-2 sentence for each heading there. If that seems a little harsh, then I’ll allow you 3 sentences for the “Developments” section: that’s where the bulk of your book is going to lie. But that’s all. At this stage, we don’t want complex. Complex is our enemy. We’ll get there soon enough, but for now just think, Structure-structure-structure. Too much complexity – all that intricate plot detail – just gets in the way of finding the actual bones of your novel. (Oh, and I don’t want to digress too much, but that same basic template works if you want to build a scene, or write a synopsis, or structure a key piece of dialogue. In fact, it’s just like this universal unlocking device for pretty much any structural challenge in fiction. Good to know, huh?) The Novel Template: An Example You probably want an example of what your outline should look like, right? OK. So let’s say your name was Jane Austen and you had a great idea for a story about a prideful guy and a charming but somewhat prejudiced girl. Your story outline might look something like this: CharacterElizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet, one of five daughters in Regency England. Status QuoLizzy and her sisters will be plunged into poverty if her father dies, so they need to marry (and marry well) MotivationLizzy wants to marry for love. Initiating IncidentTwo wealthy gentlemen, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, arrive. DevelopmentsLizzy meets proud Mr Darcy and dashing stranger Mr Wickham. She despises Mr Darcy and likes Mr Wickham. She discovers Darcy loves her and that Wickham isn’t all he seems. CrisisLizzy’s sister elopes, threatening the social ruin of her family. It now looks like Lizzy can’t marry anyone. ResolutionMr Darcy helps Lizzy’s sister. Lizzy agrees to marry him, deciding now that she loves him, after all. Now that’s easy, right? That’s the whole of Pride and Prejudice in a nutshell, and it was easy. You just need to do the same with your book or your idea, and keep it really simple. In fact, if you struggle to know everything that goes in the ‘developments’ section, you can even drop in some placeholder type comments. If you were Jane Austen you might, for example, start out by saying something like “Lizzy breaks with Wickham, because it turns out he’s a bad guy. He killed someone? Stole money? Something else? Something to think about.” And that’s fine. Don’t worry about any blanks. It’s like you’re building a tower and you’re missing one of the girders. But by getting everything else in place and putting a “girder needs to go here” sign up, the structure is still brilliantly clear. That’s all you need (for now.) Oh, and don’t bother separating those down into chapters just yet, you can worry about that later – but when you do, read this, it’s really useful! Finally, don’t complicate things if you don’t want to, but if you find it helpful to add a “character development” heading, then you should do that as well. Effectively, you’re extending your novel outline template to cover not just plot movements, but character development too – a brilliant all-in-one tool. Developing Your Story Outline Taking your template on to the next level Now, OK, you might feel that our template so far is just a little too basic. Which it is. So let’s develop the structure another notch, and what we’re going to do now is to add in anything we know about subplots – or basically any story action that you DO know about, which doesn’t fit neatly into the above plot structure. So if you were Jane Austen, and had a good handle on your story, you might put together something like this. (Oh, and we’ve called them sub-plots, but you can call them story strands, or story elements, or anything that feels right to you.) Subplot 1Jane Bennet (Lizzy’s caring sister) and Mr Bingley fall in love, but Bingley moves away, then comes back. Jane and Bingley marry. Subplot 2Lydia Bennet (Lizzy’s reckless sister) elopes with Wickham. She is later found and helped by Darcy. Subplot 3Odious Mr Collins proposes marriage to Lizzy. She says no. Her more pragmatic friend, Charlotte Lucas, says yes. Notice that we’re not yet trying to mesh those things together. In fact, the way we’ve done it here Subplot 3 (which happens in the middle of the book) comes after Subplot 2 (which comes at the end). But again: don’t worry. Sketch your additional story material down as swiftly as neatly as Miss Austen has just done it. The meshing together – the whole business of getting things in the right order, getting the character motivations perfectly aligned and all that – that’ll do your brain in. Yes, you have to get to it at some stage. But not now. Keep it simple, and build up. And that actually brings us to another point. How To Use Subplots If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know perfectly well that our outline so far still misses out masses of stuff. There’s nothing on where the novel is set. Or why or how events unfurl. It doesn’t say a thing about character relations, why each feels as they do. There’s nothing to say on character development, subtleties, supporting cast, and so on. And that’s fine to start with. It’s actually good. What does matter, however is your character’s motivation. Taking one subplot above as example, Charlotte wants security through marriage to Mr Collins. Lizzy, however, rejects her friend’s rationale. Charlotte’s marriage reaffirms Lizzy’s romantic values and, crucially, also throws her in Mr Darcy’s way again later in the book. Now that’s interesting stuff, but if a subplot doesn’t bear on a protagonist’s ability to achieve their goal or goals, that subplot must be deleted or revised. Luckily, though, our story structure template helps you avoid that pitfall in the first place. In fact, here are two rules that you should obey religiously: If you’re outlining a plot for the first time. Pin down your basics, then build up subplots and so on.If you have already started your manuscript and you think you’re uncertain of your plot structure, stop – and follow the exercises in this post, exactly as you would if you hadn’t yet written a word. And do actually do this. As in pen-and-paper do it, not just “think about it for a minute or two then go on Twitter.” The act of writing things out will be helpful just in itself. The act of writing always is. Plotting Your Novel: The Template Remember as well that every subplot (or story strand, or whatever you want to call them) has its own little journey. Maybe a very simple one, but it’ll have its own beginning, middle and end. Its own structure of Initiating Incident / Developments / Crisis / Resolution. So you may as well drop everything you have into the grid below. (If you want to adapt that grid a little, then do, but don’t mess around with it toooo much. The basic idea there is golden.) MAIN PLOTSUBPLOT 1SUBPLOT 2SUBPLOT 3INITIATING INCIDENTMAIN PLOTCRISISRESOLUTION If you’ve got more complexity to accommodate than this allows, take care. No matter how sprawling an epic you’re writing, you need to be able to identify the essence or heart of the story you’re writing, so try paring your novel down – you can always add more details and columns after. What would your story look like, if you did this? How To Further Develop Your Plot Outline Advanced techniques for writing ninjas What happens if your plot doesn’t fit into that grid? If you give that exercise your very best go and just draw a blank? Well, no worries. The basic problems here are twofold: You don’t yet understand your plot well enough, orYou just don’t have enough plot to sustain a full-length novel. Two different problems. Two different solutions. If you don’t yet understand your own plot in enough detail, you want to use … Plot-building Tool: The Snowflake Method Seeing your own plot in detail, before you write the book, is really hard, because it’s like you’re standing on the seashore trying to jump onto Mount Everest. In one bound. Not gonna work. So get there in stages, Base Camp. Camp 1, and so on up. What that means for you, is that you use our basic template in sketch form to start with – a sentence or two per section. Then you go at it again, and give each section its own paragraph. Then you go at it again, expanding to 2-3 paragraphs, or whole pages if you want to. The same basic exercise, but getting into deeper levels of detail each time. If you want more about the “snowflake” approach you can find it right here. OK. But what if your plot outline just feels a little bit thin once you sketch it out? Answer you fix it – and you fix it NOW before you start hurtling into the task of actually writing. Here are the techniques you’ll need to do just that: Method 1: Mirroring This doesn’t mean tack on needless bits and pieces – characters shouting at each other for effect, etc. – but add depth and subplots, developing the complexity of your protagonist’s story. (Remember: if it’s not contributing to your protagonist’s journey, it doesn’t matter and you need to delete it.) To take another novel – supposing your name is Harper Lee, and your story is the tale of a girl named Scout – let’s say Scout’s spooked by an odd but harmless man living on her street. It’s fine, though there’s not yet enough complexity yet to carry a novel, so complicate it. One thought is giving her a father figure, say a lawyer, named Atticus. (Harper Lee herself was daughter of a small-town lawyer.) He’s fighting to defend a man accused of something he obviously didn’t do. Targeted for who he is, rather than anything he’s done. A black guy accused for looking different? An odd-but-harmless guy who spooks Scout? It’s straightforward, tragic mirroring. Atticus’ fight is lost, the stories interweave, and Scout learns compassion in To Kill A Mockingbird. Introducing that second, reverberating plot strand meant that Harper Lee’s novel had the heft to become a classic of world literature. Method 2: Ram Your Genre Into Something Different Another way to complicate your plot is to throw action into a different genre – such as sci-fi, fantasy or crime. So take The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Looked at one way, that’s a pretty much standard issue romantic story, which, yes, could have sold, but could never have made the huge sales it actually racked up. But then ram that into a story of time-travel, and you have something shimmeringly new and exciting. What you had was still a romantic story at its heart – it certainly wouldn’t appeal to hardcore fans of SF/fantasy – but the novel element gave it a totally new birth. Or take Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters. A picaresque Victorian historical novel . . . that kind of thing always had its audience – but that audience had never encountered a frankly told lesbian coming-of-age story in that context, and the result of that shock collision was to produce a literary sensation. Method 3: Take Your Character And Max Her Out Why was it that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo went on to get such gigantic sales across the globe? It wasn’t the quality of Stieg Larsson’s writing, which was never more than competent and which was quite baggy, to say the least. And the actual plot? Well, on the face of it, he delivered a fairly standard issue crime story. Nothing so unusual there in terms of actual narrative. But Stieg Larsson rammed that basic story with an exotic character: Lisbeth Salander. That woman had Aspergers, she was a bisexual computer hacker and rape survivor . . .and boom – vast worldwide sales resulted. Method 4: Add Edge – A Glint Of Steel A few years back, I was struggling with one of my books, This Thing of Darkness. (here) The basic plot was strong. The mystery element was good. There was at least one quite unusual element. The climax was rip-roaring (set on a trawler at sea in a force 10 gale.) But . . . The book wasn’t quite working. It was long. And it was just a long, long way from the set-up phase of the book to the denouement. My solution? A glint of steel. I took an incident from the middle of the book – a break-in, and a theft, but no violence, no real time action – and I turned that into a long sequence involving the abduction of my protagonist. That addition made a long book even longer . . . but it made the book. It’s not just that the sequence itself was exciting, it’s that its shadow extended over everything else too. Whereas before the book had felt a bit like, “yep, gotta solve the mystery, because that’s what these books have to do.” Now it was: “We HAVE TO solve that mystery, because these bastards abducted our protagonist.” Steel. Edge. Sex or violence. Those things work in crime novels , but they work in totally literary works too. Can you imagine Ian McEwan’s Atonement without that glint of sex? Would The Great Gatsby have worked if no one had died? How To Write A Plot From Multiple Perspectives If you’re eager to write about multiple protagonists, you need a plot outline, along the lines of the template above, for each one. George R.R. Martin took this to new levels in A Song of Ice and Fire, each protagonist having his or her own richly developed plot and character arc. John Fowles’ The Collector, for example, is narrated by a kidnapper and the girl he’s kidnapped. Sullen, menacing Fred justifies all he does. Miranda chronicles her fear and pity. The result is taut, terrifying. We’re engrossed in their shared experience to the end. Multiple protagonists can work in romance novels, too, even ones told in third-person narration, such as The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This said, managing multiple points of view, even from minor characters, can work well for thrillers, often driven by the drip-drip-drip of information release (though these things depend on story, as much as genre). The key thing to bear in mind here is that you need a mini version of your novel outline template for each of your main characters. Each one of those guys needs a complete little story of their own – and those little stories need to interweave to create one great and compelling one.
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Literary Agents For Paranormal Romances

All stories share a simple common structure, right? So the simplest way to outline your novel (or any type of story) is to use that universal template by way of scaffolding. And you do need to use some kind of novel outline before you start writing. Plotting a novel from scratch? Imagining the whole thing in your head before you start? That’s hard. Or, scratch that, it’s pretty much impossible. So don’t do it. Cheat. Use a simple, dependable template to build an outline of your novel, then slowly fill out the detail. Yes, filling in the detail can be a slow and tricky process. But you don’t care. Because if your basic outline is strong (and the idea that lies behind it is strong), you can’t really go wrong. And figuring out that template and how best to use it is exactly what we’re going to do in this post. (Or – full disclosure – it’s what you’re going to do. We’ll just help a little on the way . . .) Novel Outline Template In A Nutshell You just need to figure out: Main character (who leads the story)Status Quo (situation at the start)Motivation (what your character wants)Initiating incident (what disturbs the status quo)Developments (what happens next)Crisis (how things come to a head)Resolution (how things resolve) What A Story Template Looks Like Use a simple plot outline to get your ideas straight Let’s start simple. And that means, yep, that YOU need to start simple. Get a sheet of paper or notebook and have it by you as you work your way through this post. Ready? Pencil sharp and ready to go? So do this: Write down the following headings: Main characters Status Quo Motivation Initiating Incident Developments Crisis Resolution Simple right? And now sketch in your answers in as few words as possible. That means a maximum of 1-2 sentence for each heading there. If that seems a little harsh, then I’ll allow you 3 sentences for the “Developments” section: that’s where the bulk of your book is going to lie. But that’s all. At this stage, we don’t want complex. Complex is our enemy. We’ll get there soon enough, but for now just think, Structure-structure-structure. Too much complexity – all that intricate plot detail – just gets in the way of finding the actual bones of your novel. (Oh, and I don’t want to digress too much, but that same basic template works if you want to build a scene, or write a synopsis, or structure a key piece of dialogue. In fact, it’s just like this universal unlocking device for pretty much any structural challenge in fiction. Good to know, huh?) The Novel Template: An Example You probably want an example of what your outline should look like, right? OK. So let’s say your name was Jane Austen and you had a great idea for a story about a prideful guy and a charming but somewhat prejudiced girl. Your story outline might look something like this: CharacterElizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet, one of five daughters in Regency England. Status QuoLizzy and her sisters will be plunged into poverty if her father dies, so they need to marry (and marry well) MotivationLizzy wants to marry for love. Initiating IncidentTwo wealthy gentlemen, Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy, arrive. DevelopmentsLizzy meets proud Mr Darcy and dashing stranger Mr Wickham. She despises Mr Darcy and likes Mr Wickham. She discovers Darcy loves her and that Wickham isn’t all he seems. CrisisLizzy’s sister elopes, threatening the social ruin of her family. It now looks like Lizzy can’t marry anyone. ResolutionMr Darcy helps Lizzy’s sister. Lizzy agrees to marry him, deciding now that she loves him, after all. Now that’s easy, right? That’s the whole of Pride and Prejudice in a nutshell, and it was easy. You just need to do the same with your book or your idea, and keep it really simple. In fact, if you struggle to know everything that goes in the ‘developments’ section, you can even drop in some placeholder type comments. If you were Jane Austen you might, for example, start out by saying something like “Lizzy breaks with Wickham, because it turns out he’s a bad guy. He killed someone? Stole money? Something else? Something to think about.” And that’s fine. Don’t worry about any blanks. It’s like you’re building a tower and you’re missing one of the girders. But by getting everything else in place and putting a “girder needs to go here” sign up, the structure is still brilliantly clear. That’s all you need (for now.) Oh, and don’t bother separating those down into chapters just yet, you can worry about that later – but when you do, read this, it’s really useful! Finally, don’t complicate things if you don’t want to, but if you find it helpful to add a “character development” heading, then you should do that as well. Effectively, you’re extending your novel outline template to cover not just plot movements, but character development too – a brilliant all-in-one tool. Developing Your Story Outline Taking your template on to the next level Now, OK, you might feel that our template so far is just a little too basic. Which it is. So let’s develop the structure another notch, and what we’re going to do now is to add in anything we know about subplots – or basically any story action that you DO know about, which doesn’t fit neatly into the above plot structure. So if you were Jane Austen, and had a good handle on your story, you might put together something like this. (Oh, and we’ve called them sub-plots, but you can call them story strands, or story elements, or anything that feels right to you.) Subplot 1Jane Bennet (Lizzy’s caring sister) and Mr Bingley fall in love, but Bingley moves away, then comes back. Jane and Bingley marry. Subplot 2Lydia Bennet (Lizzy’s reckless sister) elopes with Wickham. She is later found and helped by Darcy. Subplot 3Odious Mr Collins proposes marriage to Lizzy. She says no. Her more pragmatic friend, Charlotte Lucas, says yes. Notice that we’re not yet trying to mesh those things together. In fact, the way we’ve done it here Subplot 3 (which happens in the middle of the book) comes after Subplot 2 (which comes at the end). But again: don’t worry. Sketch your additional story material down as swiftly as neatly as Miss Austen has just done it. The meshing together – the whole business of getting things in the right order, getting the character motivations perfectly aligned and all that – that’ll do your brain in. Yes, you have to get to it at some stage. But not now. Keep it simple, and build up. And that actually brings us to another point. How To Use Subplots If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you’ll know perfectly well that our outline so far still misses out masses of stuff. There’s nothing on where the novel is set. Or why or how events unfurl. It doesn’t say a thing about character relations, why each feels as they do. There’s nothing to say on character development, subtleties, supporting cast, and so on. And that’s fine to start with. It’s actually good. What does matter, however is your character’s motivation. Taking one subplot above as example, Charlotte wants security through marriage to Mr Collins. Lizzy, however, rejects her friend’s rationale. Charlotte’s marriage reaffirms Lizzy’s romantic values and, crucially, also throws her in Mr Darcy’s way again later in the book. Now that’s interesting stuff, but if a subplot doesn’t bear on a protagonist’s ability to achieve their goal or goals, that subplot must be deleted or revised. Luckily, though, our story structure template helps you avoid that pitfall in the first place. In fact, here are two rules that you should obey religiously: If you’re outlining a plot for the first time. Pin down your basics, then build up subplots and so on.If you have already started your manuscript and you think you’re uncertain of your plot structure, stop – and follow the exercises in this post, exactly as you would if you hadn’t yet written a word. And do actually do this. As in pen-and-paper do it, not just “think about it for a minute or two then go on Twitter.” The act of writing things out will be helpful just in itself. The act of writing always is. Plotting Your Novel: The Template Remember as well that every subplot (or story strand, or whatever you want to call them) has its own little journey. Maybe a very simple one, but it’ll have its own beginning, middle and end. Its own structure of Initiating Incident / Developments / Crisis / Resolution. So you may as well drop everything you have into the grid below. (If you want to adapt that grid a little, then do, but don’t mess around with it toooo much. The basic idea there is golden.) Main PlotSubplot 1Subplot 2Subplot 3Initiating IncidentMAIN PLOTCRISISRESOLUTION If you’ve got more complexity to accommodate than this allows, take care. No matter how sprawling an epic you’re writing, you need to be able to identify the essence or heart of the story you’re writing, so try paring your novel down – you can always add more details and columns after. What would your story look like, if you did this? How To Further Develop Your Plot Outline Advanced techniques for writing ninjas What happens if your plot doesn’t fit into that grid? If you give that exercise your very best go and just draw a blank? Well, no worries. The basic problems here are twofold: You don’t yet understand your plot well enough, orYou just don’t have enough plot to sustain a full-length novel. Two different problems. Two different solutions. If you don’t yet understand your own plot in enough detail, you want to use … Plot-building Tool: The Snowflake Method Seeing your own plot in detail, before you write the book, is really hard, because it’s like you’re standing on the seashore trying to jump onto Mount Everest. In one bound. Not gonna work. So get there in stages, Base Camp. Camp 1, and so on up. What that means for you, is that you use our basic template in sketch form to start with – a sentence or two per section. Then you go at it again, and give each section its own paragraph. Then you go at it again, expanding to 2-3 paragraphs, or whole pages if you want to. The same basic exercise, but getting into deeper levels of detail each time. If you want more about the “snowflake” approach you can find it right here. OK. But what if your plot outline just feels a little bit thin once you sketch it out? Answer you fix it – and you fix it NOW before you start hurtling into the task of actually writing. Here are the techniques you’ll need to do just that: Method 1: Mirroring This doesn’t mean tack on needless bits and pieces – characters shouting at each other for effect, etc. – but add depth and subplots, developing the complexity of your protagonist’s story. (Remember: if it’s not contributing to your protagonist’s journey, it doesn’t matter and you need to delete it.) To take another novel – supposing your name is Harper Lee, and your story is the tale of a girl named Scout – let’s say Scout’s spooked by an odd but harmless man living on her street. It’s fine, though there’s not yet enough complexity yet to carry a novel, so complicate it. One thought is giving her a father figure, say a lawyer, named Atticus. (Harper Lee herself was daughter of a small-town lawyer.) He’s fighting to defend a man accused of something he obviously didn’t do. Targeted for who he is, rather than anything he’s done. A black guy accused for looking different? An odd-but-harmless guy who spooks Scout? It’s straightforward, tragic mirroring. Atticus’ fight is lost, the stories interweave, and Scout learns compassion in To Kill A Mockingbird. Introducing that second, reverberating plot strand meant that Harper Lee’s novel had the heft to become a classic of world literature. Method 2: Ram Your Genre Into Something Different Another way to complicate your plot is to throw action into a different genre – such as sci-fi, fantasy or crime. So take The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Looked at one way, that’s a pretty much standard issue romantic story, which, yes, could have sold, but could never have made the huge sales it actually racked up. But then ram that into a story of time-travel, and you have something shimmeringly new and exciting. What you had was still a romantic story at its heart – it certainly wouldn’t appeal to hardcore fans of SF/fantasy – but the novel element gave it a totally new birth. Or take Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters. A picaresque Victorian historical novel . . . that kind of thing always had its audience – but that audience had never encountered a frankly told lesbian coming-of-age story in that context, and the result of that shock collision was to produce a literary sensation. Method 3: Take Your Character And Max Her Out Why was it that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo went on to get such gigantic sales across the globe? It wasn’t the quality of Stieg Larsson’s writing, which was never more than competent and which was quite baggy, to say the least. And the actual plot? Well, on the face of it, he delivered a fairly standard issue crime story. Nothing so unusual there in terms of actual narrative. But Stieg Larsson rammed that basic story with an exotic character: Lisbeth Salander. That woman had Aspergers, she was a bisexual computer hacker and rape survivor . . .and boom – vast worldwide sales resulted. Method 4: Add Edge – A Glint Of Steel A few years back, I was struggling with one of my books, This Thing of Darkness. (here) The basic plot was strong. The mystery element was good. There was at least one quite unusual element. The climax was rip-roaring (set on a trawler at sea in a force 10 gale.) But . . . The book wasn’t quite working. It was long. And it was just a long, long way from the set-up phase of the book to the denouement. My solution? A glint of steel. I took an incident from the middle of the book – a break-in, and a theft, but no violence, no real time action – and I turned that into a long sequence involving the abduction of my protagonist. That addition made a long book even longer . . . but it made the book. It’s not just that the sequence itself was exciting, it’s that its shadow extended over everything else too. Whereas before the book had felt a bit like, “yep, gotta solve the mystery, because that’s what these books have to do.” Now it was: “We HAVE TO solve that mystery, because these bastards abducted our protagonist.” Steel. Edge. Sex or violence. Those things work in crime novels , but they work in totally literary works too. Can you imagine Ian McEwan’s Atonement without that glint of sex? Would The Great Gatsby have worked if no one had died? How To Write A Plot From Multiple Perspectives If you’re eager to write about multiple protagonists, you need a plot outline, along the lines of the template above, for each one. George R.R. Martin took this to new levels in A Song of Ice and Fire, each protagonist having his or her own richly developed plot and character arc. John Fowles’ The Collector, for example, is narrated by a kidnapper and the girl he’s kidnapped. Sullen, menacing Fred justifies all he does. Miranda chronicles her fear and pity. The result is taut, terrifying. We’re engrossed in their shared experience to the end. Multiple protagonists can work in romance novels, too, even ones told in third-person narration, such as The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This said, managing multiple points of view, even from minor characters, can work well for thrillers, often driven by the drip-drip-drip of information release (though these things depend on story, as much as genre). The key thing to bear in mind here is that you need a mini version of your novel outline template for each of your main characters. Each one of those guys needs a complete little story of their own – and those little stories need to interweave to create one great and compelling one.
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Literary agents for horror

The vampire boom isn’t what it was, but the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight created a prominent sub-genre in paranormal romance. That said, writers like Anne Rice have been around a long time and point to the genre’s longevity. The whole nexus of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and YA dark romance. It’s a genre tailor-made for the e-book generation and (not surprisingly) one that has spawned plenty of films and TV series. The entry criteria are threefold. One, you need good, clean, readable prose. Two, you need a twist on the basic genre that feels new and compelling. Three, you need a romance that will truly capture your audience’s heart. You can select by genre (e.g. paranormal romance) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member.
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How to write a novel synopsis (with an example)

Including a template for you to follow and a complete worked example When you approach literary agents, you will need to present them with a submission package that includes a query letter, a sample of your manuscript and, of course, a synopsis. The synopsis will need to look professional – that is, it wants to follow a proper synopsis format – and it needs to do its job, of convincing an agent that your story sounds exciting. That’s not actually hard to achieve, and this post will tell you exactly how to write a synopsis. We’ll reveal the two huge tricks that make your life easy . . . and give you an example synopsis too, so you can understand exactly how to put the rules into practice. Sounds good? Let’s jump right in. How To Write A Novel Synopsis A synopsis is a 500-800 word summary of your book that forms part of your agent submission pack. It should outline your plot in neutral non-salesy language and demonstrate a clear story arc. Every major plot twist, character, and any big turning point or climatic scene should get a mention. Definition: What Is A Synopsis? A synopsis is: A short summary of your story, in its entirety, from beginning to end, soup to nuts, nose to tail.Written in fairly neutral, non-salesy languageFollows the same broad structure as your novel. So if, for example, you have a novel with two intertwining time-strands, your synopsis would follow the order of events as presented in the novel. Your novel’s structure trumps any chronological issues.Probably about 500-800 words in length, but agents’ requirements differ, so do check against each agent’s submission requirements. From this definition, it also follows that: A synopsis is not like the text on the back jacket of a book. Those book blurbs are much shorter and normally offer only a teaser, rather than a full rundown of the book’s story.For the same reason, a novel synopsis is not the same as an Amazon-style book description. In fact, a synopsis is what you think it is. A 500-word long spoiler for your entire novel. Every major plot twist. Every major character. Any big turning point. Your big climactic scenes. They’re all there, briefly, succinctly and (yes) a little drily narrated. Oh yes: and some good news – If you can write a novel, then you can definitely write a synopsis. Writing a synopsis is a lot, lot easier than writing a whole damn novel, so don’t stress. You should be able to put together your synopsis in a morning – and still have time for a stroll before lunch. Purpose:What Is A Synopsis For? I just said that a synopsis is kinda dry – and it is. In fact, I doubt if anyone has ever enjoyed reading one. It’s just not that entertaining. So if it’s not for fun – why have it? Why do almost all literary agents ask for one? OK, so this is how it works: Most literary agents will look at your covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This looks great, but is it going to hold interest? Is it worth making that investment of time to read it all?” That’s where the synopsis comes in. Your synopsis is there to outline your plot and to demonstrate a clear story arc, a satisfying ending. It’s your tool to make someone read on. That’s why your synopsis needs to: Tell an agent directly and clearly what your plot is – it needs to give a clear picture of the narrative arc;Clearly identify your main characters – and at least hint at any major character development arcsMake clear what your hook, premise or elevator pitch is;Demonstrate implicitly its appeal and how plot momentum increases;Share an ending that feels satisfying. If your synopsis achieves all that – and your query letter and manuscript sample is up to scratch – the agent will ask you for the full manuscript. They can’t not. You’ve got them hooked. Synopsis:Length, Tone, Format A wonderful synopsis has the following ingredients: Length: about 500 words (but check agency requirements – they can be quite variable). There’s a lot of advice around suggesting that your synopsis should run to no more than one page. We think that’s on the low side. Most good synopses we see run to two nicely formatted pages (ie: reasonable line spacing, normal margins and a sensible font.)Language: Be business-like; clear, to the point, neutral. In particular, it’s fine to tell not show: this is a business document, not the novel itself.Presentation: Be well-presented with no typos or spelling mistakes. Use normal fonts, normal margins, and line spacing no narrower than 1.5. It’s fine if your synopsis runs to two pages, but (unless an agent specifically asks for more), don’t run to more than that.Character names: Put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That makes the synopsis easier to navigate.Character thumbnails: as well as highlighting your characters names , you should give a swift resume of who they are, on first introduction. So for example: “James Bond, (38), a British agent – handsome, cruel, seductive, and high-living – …”. Note that you can insert age in brackets without having to say “he is thirty-eight years old.” Save that word count!Extra points: If you have a compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis.Third person presentation: Even if your novel is narrated in the first person, your synopsis should be written third person. So (to pick one of my own 1st person detective novels for example), I wouldn’t write “I am a police constable in South Wales …”, but rather, “Fiona Griffiths is a police constable, based in South Wales…” You can instantly see how much more professional that sounds, right?File name: Please don’t call your file synopsis.doc. That works fine for you on your computer – but the agent probably has 100 files from writers with that exact filename. So help the agent out. Your file should be in the format title-synopsis. So: farewell-to-arms-synopsis.doc, for example. And once again: tell the story. Your job is not to sell the book, write blurb, or anything else, just say what happens in the story. How To Write A Synopsis For Your Novel The two tricks that make your task ridiculously simple There are two big tricks in getting your synopsis right. They are: Trick The First Don’t take your massive 100,000 word manuscript and try to figure out how to cram all its rich complexity into a 500 word precis. It can’t be done. You’ll go crazy. Your synopsis will be terrible. Instead of going from your manuscript and boiling it down, you need to go from your structure and build up. That’s the trick. It works every time and it’s awesome. What’s your structure? It’s this: Status QuoInitiating IncidentDevelopmentsCrisisResolution Without looking at your manuscript, sketch out your plot using those headings in about 300 words. The ‘developments’ section obviously represents by far the largest portion of your novel, but it may not amount to more than 40-50% of your total word count here. That’s fine. Missing out excessive detail is exactly the point. It’s precisely what you’re trying to do. So do it, and don’t fret. Equally: don’t get into too much detail about character or settings or anything like that. Just focus on the exact plot mechanics for now. Want more help on this? Need help to understand this trick in action? Course you do: We’ve got a free Agent Submissions Builder which gives you a precise template for constructing your synopsis – and your query letter. You’ll have both synopsis and query letter written in a couple of hours tops – and they’ll be excellent ones as well. Get my Agent Submission Builder here. Second only to your novel, these are the most important documents you’ll ever write – so get them sorted fast, easily, and with excellence. You’ll be glad you did. Trick The Second The second trick is equally simple and equally effective. It’s this: Layer in information about who your characters are and how the events of the story impact them. Synopses can feel like rather cold and baffling documents. When they do (and assuming they’re decently written), it’s always because the writer has focused entirely on plot machinery and hasn’t said enough about why it matters to the characters. But we read books for the characters, so your synopsis has to engage with those emotional aspects too. Remember I gave you only 300 words for the actual plot machinery? The remaining 200 words are where you can express yourself with characters, emotions and character arcs. Example (Without Character / Emotion Language): “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a boy, named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school. He disappears for a few days, but sees more of Bella upon his return. Bella is then nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Adapted from the Wikipedia synopsis of Twilight) Example (With Character / Emotion Language) “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a mysterious boy named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school, but he seems repulsed by her, affecting her feelings in the process. He disappears for a few days, but warms up to Bella upon his return; their newfound relationship is interrupted after Bella is nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Source: as above) Do you see how much more engaging the second version is? Although the text remains quite dry, by including emotional / character-type language in its summary, we have some sense of the real, developing relationship. Short message: don’t focus so hard on plot mechanics that you forget to layer in emotion. Writing A Synopsis:Common Mistakes Here’s what not to do. Miss the agent’s word count by a mile. If an agent’s website gives you a particular word count to aim for, then deliver that, at least approximately. You may find you need a couple of different versions of the same documents, just because those blooming agents can’t cohere around one set word count. Jeepers. Those guys.Go into detail about setting: If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel, for example, you might simply say: “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.” You don’t need more.Go into vast detail about character: A few quick strokes are all that you need. (For example: “Ella, an experienced but overconfident assassin (36), …”)Be scrupulous about plot detail: It’s fine to skip subplots or ignore some finer details. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 500-word summary. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story.Hide the plot twist: A synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, opposite to a blurb, and your job is just to spill the beans, whether you like it or not.Start telling us about the novel. So, for example, don’t say, “Then the novel picks up the story of Kate and Jacob …”. Say: “Meanwhile, Kate and Jacob …”Cram in too many character names. Four or five is the maximum an agent wants to deal with. If you need to refer to other characters, just say, “the CIA agent” or “the beautiful doctor”.Forget to put your character names in CAPS or bold. Make it easy for the agent!Omit the title. Yes, we’ve seen synopses entitled “Synopsis”. Make sure you have both the title of your book and your name up at the top of your document. So your title line might read: A Farewell to Arms: Synopsis”, and beneath that in smaller text you’d have your name – maybe Ernest somebody-or-other.Use an unhelpful filename. Your document needs to be yourbooktitle-synopsis.doc.Write badly. Yes, a synopsis is a brisk, functional document, and you don’t need to write wonderfully. But you are still a writer trying to sell your work, so don’t allow yourself clumsy or badly expressed sentences.Fail to use our incredible Agent Submission Builder. These tools help you structure and write your synopsis and your query letter in a trice. Or even less than that – a dice. You can get them for free here. Watcha waitin’ for? If you’re not making those errors, you should be good to go. If you need help on getting your plot structure right in the first place, then check out these links: how to plot, more on using plot outlines, and how to apply the snowflake method to your story construction process. Synopsis: An Example A perfect example of how to get your synopsis just plain right For a perfect example of a synopsis, please see below. This is a synopsis example penned by one of our own clients, Tracy Gilpin. The synopsis (and the book) went on to wow an agent and secure a book deal. Synopsis Of Double Cross By Tracy Gilpin Dunai Marks discovers the strangled corpse of Siobhan Craig, an activist who is not only her employer but also a mother figure; Dunai had been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby. Siobhan was about to present to government the results of a controversial population control model for possible implementation at national level. Dunai believes this is the reason she was murdered. The investigating officer on the case is instructed by an agent of the National Intelligence Agency to treat the murder as a botched burglary. Although some evidence points in this direction, Dunai believes Siobhan’s murder was work-related, which means she and Bryan, an American statistician, could be in danger. She strikes a deal with Carl, a private investigator. If she is able to find a motive for the murder he will show her how to go about catching the killer. Dunai discovers Siobhan was blackmailing five people who stood in the way of her pilot project, and was involved with a subversive group of radical feminists called Cerchio Del Gaia whose insignia is a double cross. Dunai and Carl investigate the individuals blackmailed by Siobhan. They include: an anti-abortion activist, the head of an all-male religious fundamentalist group, an Anglican bishop, a member of local government, and a USAID official. One of these suspects was the last person to see Siobhan alive, another is known to have approached a contract killer a month before her murder. Cerchio Del Gaia becomes increasingly entangled in both Dunai’s life and the investigation, and she is told that if she joins the group she will have access to information about her birth. The National Intelligence Agency is on a similar tack; if Dunai infiltrates Cerchio Del Gaia, which they believe is an international terrorist organisation, they will provide her with information about her origins. Dunai turns down both offers and the mystery of her birth and abandonment is eventually revealed by a woman claiming to be Siobhan’s sister, Dunai’s birth mother and the head of the South African chapter of Cerchio Del Gaia. Throughout the investigation Dunai has searched for Mr Bojangles, a schizophrenic vagrant who may have seen the murderer. When she eventually finds him he seems to be of little help, yet it is his ramblings along with another clue that leads to her close friend and colleague, Bryan, who has been wanted by the FBI for twenty years for terrorist activities in the US. Bryan murdered Siobhan after discovering she intended betraying him to the National Intelligence Agency to deflect attention from Cerchio Del Gaia and as proof that she abided by the law even when it meant personal sacrifice. Carl, who is now romantically involved with Dunai, offers to continue her training as an investigator and she agrees to divide her time between this and Siobhan’s NGO. What Next? We suggest using Tracy’s synopsis as a great example for your own synopsis format. If you need more help writing your synopsis and agent letter, we offer this as one of our manuscript editing services. Or if you just want the agent submissions builder, you can go grab it below. Happy writing – and have fun. About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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Literary agents for women’s fiction

Including a template for you to follow and a complete worked example When you approach literary agents, you will need to present them with a submission package that includes a query letter, a sample of your manuscript and, of course, a synopsis. The synopsis will need to look professional – that is, it wants to follow a proper synopsis format – and it needs to do its job, of convincing an agent that your story sounds exciting. That’s not actually hard to achieve, and this post will tell you exactly how to write a synopsis. We’ll reveal the two huge tricks that make your life easy . . . and give you an example synopsis too, so you can understand exactly how to put the rules into practice. Sounds good? Let’s jump right in. HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL SYNOPSIS A synopsis is a 500-800 word summary of your book that forms part of your agent submission pack. It should outline your plot in neutral non-salesy language and demonstrate a clear story arc. Every major plot twist, character, and any big turning point or climatic scene should get a mention. DEFINITION: WHAT IS A SYNOPSIS? A synopsis is: A short summary of your story, in its entirety, from beginning to end, soup to nuts, nose to tail.Written in fairly neutral, non-salesy languageFollows the same broad structure as your novel. So if, for example, you have a novel with two intertwining time-strands, your synopsis would follow the order of events as presented in the novel. Your novel’s structure trumps any chronological issues.Probably about 500-800 words in length, but agents’ requirements differ, so do check against each agent’s submission requirements. From this definition, it also follows that: A synopsis is not like the text on the back jacket of a book. Those book blurbs are much shorter and normally offer only a teaser, rather than a full rundown of the book’s story.For the same reason, a novel synopsis is not the same as an Amazon-style book description. In fact, a synopsis is what you think it is. A 500-word long spoiler for your entire novel. Every major plot twist. Every major character. Any big turning point. Your big climactic scenes. They’re all there, briefly, succinctly and (yes) a little drily narrated. Oh yes: and some good news – If you can write a novel, then you can definitely write a synopsis. Writing a synopsis is a lot, lot easier than writing a whole damn novel, so don’t stress. You should be able to put together your synopsis in a morning – and still have time for a stroll before lunch. PURPOSE:WHAT IS A SYNOPSIS FOR? I just said that a synopsis is kinda dry – and it is. In fact, I doubt if anyone has ever enjoyed reading one. It’s just not that entertaining. So if it’s not for fun – why have it? Why do almost all literary agents ask for one? OK, so this is how it works: Most literary agents will look at your covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This looks great, but is it going to hold interest? Is it worth making that investment of time to read it all?” That’s where the synopsis comes in. Your synopsis is there to outline your plot and to demonstrate a clear story arc, a satisfying ending. It’s your tool to make someone read on. That’s why your synopsis needs to: Tell an agent directly and clearly what your plot is – it needs to give a clear picture of the narrative arc;Clearly identify your main characters – and at least hint at any major character development arcsMake clear what your hook, premise or elevator pitch is;Demonstrate implicitly its appeal and how plot momentum increases;Share an ending that feels satisfying. If your synopsis achieves all that – and your query letter and manuscript sample is up to scratch – the agent will ask you for the full manuscript. They can’t not. You’ve got them hooked. SYNOPSIS:LENGTH, TONE, FORMAT A wonderful synopsis has the following ingredients: Length: about 500 words (but check agency requirements – they can be quite variable). There’s a lot of advice around suggesting that your synopsis should run to no more than one page. We think that’s on the low side. Most good synopses we see run to two nicely formatted pages (ie: reasonable line spacing, normal margins and a sensible font.)Language: Be business-like; clear, to the point, neutral. In particular, it’s fine to tell not show: this is a business document, not the novel itself.Presentation: Be well-presented with no typos or spelling mistakes. Use normal fonts, normal margins, and line spacing no narrower than 1.5. It’s fine if your synopsis runs to two pages, but (unless an agent specifically asks for more), don’t run to more than that.Character names: Put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That makes the synopsis easier to navigate.Character thumbnails: as well as highlighting your characters names , you should give a swift resume of who they are, on first introduction. So for example: “James Bond, (38), a British agent – handsome, cruel, seductive, and high-living – …”. Note that you can insert age in brackets without having to say “he is thirty-eight years old.” Save that word count!Extra points: If you have a compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis.Third person presentation: Even if your novel is narrated in the first person, your synopsis should be written third person. So (to pick one of my own 1st person detective novels for example), I wouldn’t write “I am a police constable in South Wales …”, but rather, “Fiona Griffiths is a police constable, based in South Wales…” You can instantly see how much more professional that sounds, right?File name: Please don’t call your file synopsis.doc. That works fine for you on your computer – but the agent probably has 100 files from writers with that exact filename. So help the agent out. Your file should be in the format title-synopsis. So: farewell-to-arms-synopsis.doc, for example. And once again: tell the story. Your job is not to sell the book, write blurb, or anything else, just say what happens in the story. HOW TO WRITE A SYNOPSIS FOR YOUR NOVEL The two tricks that make your task ridiculously simple There are two big tricks in getting your synopsis right. They are: TRICK THE FIRST Don’t take your massive 100,000 word manuscript and try to figure out how to cram all its rich complexity into a 500 word precis. It can’t be done. You’ll go crazy. Your synopsis will be terrible. Instead of going from your manuscript and boiling it down, you need to go from your structure and build up. That’s the trick. It works every time and it’s awesome. What’s your structure? It’s this: Status QuoInitiating IncidentDevelopmentsCrisisResolution Without looking at your manuscript, sketch out your plot using those headings in about 300 words. The ‘developments’ section obviously represents by far the largest portion of your novel, but it may not amount to more than 40-50% of your total word count here. That’s fine. Missing out excessive detail is exactly the point. It’s precisely what you’re trying to do. So do it, and don’t fret. Equally: don’t get into too much detail about character or settings or anything like that. Just focus on the exact plot mechanics for now. Want more help on this? Need help to understand this trick in action? Course you do: We’ve got a free Agent Submissions Builder which gives you a precise template for constructing your synopsis – and your query letter. You’ll have both synopsis and query letter written in a couple of hours tops – and they’ll be excellent ones as well. Get my Agent Submission Builder here. Second only to your novel, these are the most important documents you’ll ever write – so get them sorted fast, easily, and with excellence. You’ll be glad you did. Trick The Second The second trick is equally simple and equally effective. It’s this: Layer in information about who your characters are and how the events of the story impact them. Synopses can feel like rather cold and baffling documents. When they do (and assuming they’re decently written), it’s always because the writer has focused entirely on plot machinery and hasn’t said enough about why it matters to the characters. But we read books for the characters, so your synopsis has to engage with those emotional aspects too. Remember I gave you only 300 words for the actual plot machinery? The remaining 200 words are where you can express yourself with characters, emotions and character arcs. EXAMPLE (WITHOUT CHARACTER / EMOTION LANGUAGE): “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a boy, named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school. He disappears for a few days, but sees more of Bella upon his return. Bella is then nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Adapted from the Wikipedia synopsis of Twilight) EXAMPLE (WITH CHARACTER / EMOTION LANGUAGE) “As BELLA walks into the class, a fan blows her scent towards a mysterious boy named EDWARD CULLEN. Bella sits next to Edward in biology class on her first day of school, but he seems repulsed by her, affecting her feelings in the process. He disappears for a few days, but warms up to Bella upon his return; their newfound relationship is interrupted after Bella is nearly struck by a van in the school parking lot. Edward saves Bella, stopping the van with only his hand.”(Source: as above) Do you see how much more engaging the second version is? Although the text remains quite dry, by including emotional / character-type language in its summary, we have some sense of the real, developing relationship. Short message: don’t focus so hard on plot mechanics that you forget to layer in emotion. WRITING A SYNOPSIS:COMMON MISTAKES Here’s what not to do. Miss the agent’s word count by a mile. If an agent’s website gives you a particular word count to aim for, then deliver that, at least approximately. You may find you need a couple of different versions of the same documents, just because those blooming agents can’t cohere around one set word count. Jeepers. Those guys.Go into detail about setting: If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel, for example, you might simply say: “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.” You don’t need more.Go into vast detail about character: A few quick strokes are all that you need. (For example: “Ella, an experienced but overconfident assassin (36), …”)Be scrupulous about plot detail: It’s fine to skip subplots or ignore some finer details. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 500-word summary. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story.Hide the plot twist: A synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, opposite to a blurb, and your job is just to spill the beans, whether you like it or not.Start telling us about the novel. So, for example, don’t say, “Then the novel picks up the story of Kate and Jacob …”. Say: “Meanwhile, Kate and Jacob …”Cram in too many character names. Four or five is the maximum an agent wants to deal with. If you need to refer to other characters, just say, “the CIA agent” or “the beautiful doctor”.Forget to put your character names in CAPS or bold. Make it easy for the agent!Omit the title. Yes, we’ve seen synopses entitled “Synopsis”. Make sure you have both the title of your book and your name up at the top of your document. So your title line might read: A Farewell to Arms: Synopsis”, and beneath that in smaller text you’d have your name – maybe Ernest somebody-or-other.Use an unhelpful filename. Your document needs to be yourbooktitle-synopsis.doc.Write badly. Yes, a synopsis is a brisk, functional document, and you don’t need to write wonderfully. But you are still a writer trying to sell your work, so don’t allow yourself clumsy or badly expressed sentences.Fail to use our incredible Agent Submission Builder. These tools help you structure and write your synopsis and your query letter in a trice. Or even less than that – a dice. You can get them for free here. Watcha waitin’ for? If you’re not making those errors, you should be good to go. If you need help on getting your plot structure right in the first place, then check out these links: how to plot, more on using plot outlines, and how to apply the snowflake method to your story construction process. Synopsis: An Example A perfect example of how to get your synopsis just plain right For a perfect example of a synopsis, please see below. This is a synopsis example penned by one of our own clients, Tracy Gilpin. The synopsis (and the book) went on to wow an agent and secure a book deal. SYNOPSIS OF DOUBLE CROSS BY TRACY GILPIN Dunai Marks discovers the strangled corpse of Siobhan Craig, an activist who is not only her employer but also a mother figure; Dunai had been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby. Siobhan was about to present to government the results of a controversial population control model for possible implementation at national level. Dunai believes this is the reason she was murdered. The investigating officer on the case is instructed by an agent of the National Intelligence Agency to treat the murder as a botched burglary. Although some evidence points in this direction, Dunai believes Siobhan’s murder was work-related, which means she and Bryan, an American statistician, could be in danger. She strikes a deal with Carl, a private investigator. If she is able to find a motive for the murder he will show her how to go about catching the killer. Dunai discovers Siobhan was blackmailing five people who stood in the way of her pilot project, and was involved with a subversive group of radical feminists called Cerchio Del Gaia whose insignia is a double cross. Dunai and Carl investigate the individuals blackmailed by Siobhan. They include: an anti-abortion activist, the head of an all-male religious fundamentalist group, an Anglican bishop, a member of local government, and a USAID official. One of these suspects was the last person to see Siobhan alive, another is known to have approached a contract killer a month before her murder. Cerchio Del Gaia becomes increasingly entangled in both Dunai’s life and the investigation, and she is told that if she joins the group she will have access to information about her birth. The National Intelligence Agency is on a similar tack; if Dunai infiltrates Cerchio Del Gaia, which they believe is an international terrorist organisation, they will provide her with information about her origins. Dunai turns down both offers and the mystery of her birth and abandonment is eventually revealed by a woman claiming to be Siobhan’s sister, Dunai’s birth mother and the head of the South African chapter of Cerchio Del Gaia. Throughout the investigation Dunai has searched for Mr Bojangles, a schizophrenic vagrant who may have seen the murderer. When she eventually finds him he seems to be of little help, yet it is his ramblings along with another clue that leads to her close friend and colleague, Bryan, who has been wanted by the FBI for twenty years for terrorist activities in the US. Bryan murdered Siobhan after discovering she intended betraying him to the National Intelligence Agency to deflect attention from Cerchio Del Gaia and as proof that she abided by the law even when it meant personal sacrifice. Carl, who is now romantically involved with Dunai, offers to continue her training as an investigator and she agrees to divide her time between this and Siobhan’s NGO. WHAT NEXT? We suggest using Tracy’s synopsis as a great example for your own synopsis format. If you need more help writing your synopsis and agent letter, we offer this as one of our manuscript editing services. Or if you just want the agent submissions builder, you can go grab it below. Happy writing – and have fun. About the author Harry Bingham has been a professional author for twenty years and more. He’s been published by each of the three largest publishers in the world. He’s hit bestseller lists, had a ton of critical acclaim, and has been published in the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Japan . . . and lots of other places too. His work has been adapted for the screen and he’s enjoyed (almost) every minute of his career. (More about Harry, more about his books). As head of Jericho Writers (and previously the Writers’ Workshop), Harry has helped hundreds of people find agents and get published. He’d love it if you were next. (More about us.)
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Literary agents for science fiction

Are you writing predominantly for women, about women, and in search of an agent? Women’s fiction is an incredibly broad and rich genre to be aware of as a publishing label. There is romance, there is domestic noir, there is literary fiction, and a novel being literary fiction need not cancel out it being a romance, etc., etc. Nor does any given sub-genre (e.g. domestic noir) mean that this is a genre read only by women, even if in the publishing world, it may tend to be marketed as such. So you need to be careful how you choose a book genre. Is it really a book group type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Is it erotica? Just because your book might be about a woman sorting through a relationship (not necessarily a romantic one), doesn’t mean that you’ll to describe the novel as women’s fiction. Better to think more about what kind of book it is and what kind of agent you want. Luckily, we’ve made your agent search easy with AgentMatch. Agentmatch And How To Use It On AgentMatch, there are plenty of agents who love women’s fiction (including, by the way, plenty of male agents since this is not a girls’ only preserve), and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. romance or literary fiction) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. This site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members. Become a member. AgentMatch provides: A list of every agent in the UK;Masses of data on each one (photos, biographies, client lists, genre preferences, likes and dislikes, and much more);Search tools to make it easy to sort through all our goodies;Submission info for every agent;Further links to any other key information we’ve been able to locate on the web.
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US agents for travel non-fiction

So, you’ve written a travel memoir and you’re ready to find an agent to represent it? There are plenty of travel-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  William Clark  Rachel Dillon Fried   Wendy Levinson  Alison Mackeen  Dan Mandel  Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! Finding An Agent Finding an agent sounds much easier than it is. There are so many agents, with varying preferences and requirements, and so many sites to explore and notes to take. It can be a daunting task.  If you’re writing a travel book, it needs to set itself apart from others like it in the market. Take a look at Into the Wild, Eat Pray Love, or Under the Tuscan Sun, what sets them apart and makes them so appealing to readers? Bear this in mind when querying agents, and show them what makes your book unique. We’ve at least made your agent search easier with AgentMatch. Good luck!
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Write your Novel with the Snowflake Method (Simple Example)

Includes a simple example of the Snowflake Method in action When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea the project was hard. I didn’t write a plot outline. I didn’t sit down to plan my story. I didn’t actually do anything by of preparation at all. I just sat down, and wrote a book. As it happened, that book worked out well. It sold for plenty of money and went on to become a bestseller. I thought, “Yep, I can do this. I’m a great writer. Of course I don’t need to plan my next novel. I’ll just figure it out as I go.” Mistake. My second book was so bad that my editor basically called me in and told me that it was completely unpublishable in its current form. My editor was right. I knew he was. So I went home, opened up the file on my computer. Hit Ctrl-A for “select all”. And hit delete. My second novel – gone. I rewrote that novel and this time it did fine. It got entered into one of the UK’s biggest summer book promotions. It aroused some film interest. (We got an offer actually, and accepted it, but the company went down in flames before I got any cash.) And I date my writing career – my real writing career – from there. Not from my first novel, which did fine, but which just landed in my head and on the page thanks to some benevolent higher power. But from my second novel, which I had to wrestle into existence. Which I had to figure out and plan from scratch. You’re reading this post because you’re smarter than I was back then. You’ve figured out not just that you want to start writing a novel, but that you want to plan it too. You’ve realised that: If you have an outline of your novel – a structure in fact –you’re much less likely to go wrong as you write it. Yes, I know that’s obvious. I was just dumb. So this post is going to tell you how NOT to write a novel the way I tried to do it that second time. We’re going to plan out an entire structure for a novel – a complete story outline, in fact – and we’re going to do it easily. And well. We don’t want an easy way to write a bad story. We want an easy way to write a good one. Are you with me? You are? Then let’s go. How To Plot A Novel Using The Snowflake Method: Write your story in one sentenceDecide on your protagonistWrite a paragraph on settingsAdd a beginning, middle and end to your story descriptionWrite short character summariesExpand your story description to 2 pagesKeep adding details until you’re ready to write What’s The Snowflake Method, And Why Use It? So this post is going to tell you how to build up a novel outline, piece by piece. (For a reminder of plot basics, go here.) The idea of the “Snowflake” method is that it’s circular and incremental. So you don’t build your outline like this: Chapter 1: X happens, then Y happensChapter 2: Something else happensChapter 3: and then something elseetc That way is really hard to pull off. I’ve written a lot of books and I’ve never once succeeded by attempting this technique. What you’re likely to find is a mess of a first draft. Yes, you can fix it, but it’s much easier to do things right in the first place. The way the Snowflake Method works is much cleverer. It’s a much simpler way to structure your story . . . and will give you a much better story as well. (The idea, by the way, was first developed by Randy Ingermanson – so, thanks, Randy.) Here’s the basic idea. You build your outline like this: What’s the idea of your novel? Write it down in one sentence.Who’s the protagonist (hero or heroine) of your story. Write that down in one sentence.What’s the setting of your story? One sentence there, pleaseThen you go back to the idea of your story. This time you tease it out into five segments with 1 sentence (or so) for each one.And  so on The reason this method works is that it works the way the human brain works. It doesn’t ask for a ton of detail upfront before it’s settled in your mind. It uses the actual process of working to generate more thoughts and more detail . . . so you only ever need to make incremental changes to what you did before. How To Plan Out Your Novel: Approach And Mindset We’re writing creatively, right? That means two things: It’s going to be slow and jumpy.It’s not like writing a report at work, where you just need to put in enough hours and the job will get done. Sure, you need to put some hours in front of a keyboard . . . but maybe you also need to go walk the dogs, listen to some music, have a swim. It’s often enough when you’re musing but not actually working that you get the breakthroughs you need. So sure, sit at a keyboard: that part is essential. But give yourself the space to do other things too. Make space for those breakthroughs.You’ll make mistakes.And that’s good! Mistakes are good! The imagination has to be able to try stuff out. When you go clothes shopping, you see something you like,then try it on. When you look at yourself in the mirror, more often than not, you’ll think, “Nope, not  quite right.” But if you don’t try stuff on, you won’t find what is right. So let yourself try out ideas. That’s what a first draft novel outline is for. Give those ideas space and time to show you what they’re made of. And don’t get upset if you throw things away. You’ll only get to the great stuff by sifting plenty of just-not-good-enough ideas first Use The Snowflake Method: Getting Started Before you start writing your novel, make sure you have something worth writing about! The idea of the Snowflake Method is that you pen first the heart or core of your novel, so the rest can expand from here. From here, you flesh out, building out to key milestones in plot, profiling how each main character views the story, and so on, and so on – until you’re ready to start. Take a piece of paper or fire up a new document. This is how it’s done. 1 Write A One-sentence Description For Your Novel An easy starting point. This is the sum of your story, your protagonist’s journey. Where will they go, what will they achieve, how will they grow? See if you can condense all that succinctly in a single sentence or two. That sentence is the whole point of the Snowflake Method. So let’s say, you want to write a private eye type story set in 1940s Los Angeles. You love writers like Raymond Chandler, but you want to offer something new as well. So maybe you throw in one unexpected ingredient – you want to do something that Chandler himself would never have done. So, in this example, you’ve chosen to add a ghost story element to your novel. Sure, that’s just an example, but we’ll work with that idea as we develop the way the Snowflake Method actually works. Example: 1 sentence story description A private eye (Bernie Brandon) is trying to track down the killer of beautiful murder victim Amy Adderley . . . but Amy’s ghost is stalking Bernie. Does that work for you? It works for me, I think. I’d like to know more about that story. 2 Who’s The Protagonist (Hero Or Heroine) Of Your Novel? Now write down something – a sentence or two – about your protagonist. Don’t push yourself to write more here than you want, and remember that anything you do write can be scrubbed out and changed later. Changing your mind isn’t bad, remember. It shows that you’re approaching this task in a flexible and imaginative way. But, OK, for now, let’s try something like this: Example: Protagonist description in 1 sentence Bernie Brandon is an ex-cop. Lives alone. Is a problem drinker. Has a soft spot for any beautiful woman, but can’t manage long term relationships. Somewhat lonely. Is an excellent cello player, and plays the cello when he’s feeling blue. Did I say one sentence? I did. Was that one sentence? It was not. But if it comes, it comes. Don’t hold yourself back. The purpose of the Snowflake Method is to build incrementally from a simple starting point. It’s meant to remove the mental block of being asked to build too much scaffolding before you’re ready. But if you’re ready, then let yourself rip. We need to build up your main characters at some point anyway. Oh, and I originally thought that my protagonist was just going to be Bernie Brandon, only I realise I have an impulse to bring the victim / ghost more into the story as well. Maybe this story is going to be a two-hander, where Bernie and Amy both take turns to narrate? I don’t yet know the answer to that, but if you want to write something additional down about your characters here, then do. Example: 1 sentence about another major character Amy Adderley is a rich girl, dead before the start of the story. She is (or was) a singer. I didn’t find myself having more to say about Amy, so we’ll leave her there for now. 3 Write A Paragraph Or So About Your Major Setting Or Settings OK, we know what we’re doing here, right? We’re working with a 1940s Los Angeles noir. We want to evoke all that Bogart / Bacall smart-talking, hard-drinking era. So: Example: Paragraph about settings Los Angeles in the 1940s. The place is seedy, post-Prohibition, and most of the big money is dirty money. We’re thinking about big oceanfront homes, with  glossy sedan cars outside. We’re thinking about squalid little diners up in the hills where lonely souls, like Brandon, can get meals after midnight and avoid going home. This is an LA where the girls are pretty, but fallen, and the cops can be bought. And you know what? As I wrote that paragraph Click! Something clicked for me about Amy Adderley. I wasn’t looking for that to happen, but that’s how this outlining method works. You go round the various different elements of your novel (Story, Protagonists, Settings), step by step, adding detail as you go. And pop! Working one one thing, you get an insight into another thing. Those insights are what this outline process is all about. They’re why we use this method in the first place. So I’m going to jump back to my description of Amy Adderley and add this: Example: 1 sentence about another main character Amy Adderley is a rich girl, dead before the start of the story. She is (or was) a singer – but classical. She loves Schubert lieder and opera. her father, however, is a brute. A nightclub guy who made his money dirtily during Prohibition. The father’s type of singing is strictly nightclub fare – and a lot of his girls will do more than just sing for the customers . . . if the customers pay enough. Boom! You like it? We have to have a reason for why Amy is killed, and her father’s background already provides more than half an answer. And also, we gave Bernie the cello to play, just because he’s a lonely but talented guy and we had to give him something to do in his hours at home. But now Amy is a singer, a classical one. So there’s this lovely link between them. Almost like they could be lovers, right? Except that she’s dead already . . . but that feels just right for the mood of this novel. Notice that we haven’t yet said anything much about our actual story yet, but now that we have an outline of our major ingredients, we’re going to hurtle back with interest to the story itself. So, round we go again. We’re hitting the same basic targets – story, character, settings – but this time we already know more about our ingredients, so we can add layers of detail that weren’t available to us before. Using The Snowflake To Build Your Story Outline We’ve got the ingredients for our novel now. So now we need to add layers of detail. OK, so here we go again. And we’ll start by jumping back to the story that we started to create before. 4 Flesh Out Your Story Description, So It Contains A Beginning, Middle And End Our first draft story idea didn’t say a whole lot more than, “Let’s write a Raymond Chandler style novel . . . but include a ghost.” As we started to build the other elements of our novel outline, though, the story itself jumped into view a little more. (We got data on Amy’s father, and possible reasons why his daughter might have got herself killed.) So now we’re going to try to write a version of the story – still maybe only a single paragraph – but this time we’re going to give that story its basic structure: a beginning, middle and end. Already you can feel that first draft idea starting to wriggle into life. Exciting, right? So we might go with something like this. Example: Very short story outline, with beginning, middle and end Beginning: Amy’s father (Dorcan Adderley) sends a henchman to hire Bernie Brandon to investigate the death of his daughter. Bernie rejects the henchman, but meets one to one with Dorcan, and agrees to take the job.Middle: Bernie investigates. Keeps encountering / being pursued by Amy’s ghost. Bernie discovers that Amy had a fling with the son of some big wheel in the LA underworld. [Let’s call the son, Patrick Prettyboy – probably not a name that will end up in the final novel!] Bernie realises he’s meant to think Prettyboy killed Amy. He almost goes to the police with the news.End. Amy’s actual killer was her father. The whole private investigation thing was just a way to throw the blame elsewhere (and win a turf war at the same time.) Bernie doesn’t have enough evidence to take Dorcan before a court, but he confronts him and there is a struggle, which results in Dorcan’s death. Amy & Bernie, by now ‘lovers’ across the ghostly divide, play music into the small hours. How’s that? It’s not a finished story outline, by any means – but doesn’t this already feel like something that could have legs? And I’ll tell you the truth: when I began this blog post, I had no idea what story example I was going to choose. I just made it up as I went along. And presto: we already have the bones of a decent story here! That’s how easy the Snowflake Method can be. So now we cycle back to our characters again. 5 Write A Short Summary Sheet For Your Main Characters OK, I think we now have three or four characters to play with: Bernie Brandon, our PIAmy Adderley, our ghostDorcan Adderley, our bad guyMaybe Paul Prettyboy, though he’s certainly lesser than these other three. So now we’d give them each a whole sheet of paper. We’d start to ask questions about them, and start to sketch out our answers. This is a trial and error process. So maybe we start off by giving Paul Prettyboy his own nightclub to run, a gift from daddy. Except maybe that makes the whole story a little bit too nightclubby in tone. So how about we jump to the other end of things? Maybe Paul Prettyboy runs an upmarket art gallery, somewhere nice in Pasadena. He looks sauve, and sounds suave, but under it all, he’s still just a thug. A mini-me of his father. If you want to get an idea of what questions to ask about your character, you can get a great starting list here. Because we’re beginning to get more detailed – and because this is only a blog post! – I’m not going to give examples of everything from here on. *** A Word Of Warning *** We’ll go on to develop the Snowflake Method as a tool for templating out your story or novel, but first let me make one thing clear. I’m just writing a blog post, and I don’t want that post to splurge to some ridiculous length. But you are writing a book, not a blog post, so you can’t mess around. In fact, for the avoidance of doubt: You have to do this exercise in full. So, you’re going to write one page on each of your major characters, plus notes on whatever other ones pop into your brain. And here’s one more guideline that you just have to follow as you go through this novel outline process. This rule is not optional and it takes precedence over all the others: If you get an idea, write it down. Until you have actually written it (handwritten or on screen, whichever),you haven’t captured it. And you have to capture it:that’s what releases your brain to go on to the next stage. That, in a nutshell, is why most of the people who want to write a novel, don’t write a novel. They think that dreaming around with characters and stories and scenes will produce a novel. It won’t. It doesn’t. What produces a novel is: work. You write stuff down. You start thinking of the next thing. You write that down. You move on. Yes, sure, at times you’ll go back and undo some of the stuff you did before. (So first we had Paul Prettyboy as a nightclub owner. Then we realised we weren’t satisfied with that and changed it to art dealer. But we had to specify ‘nightclub owner’ in order to get to the insight that produced ‘art gallery owner’. Even mistakes are rich in insight.) Right. Lecture over. Back to the Story Outline process. 6 Expand Your Story To About Two Pages Stick with those Beginning / Middle / End sections. They’re a helpful tool for organising your novel structure. But now you want to get more detailed. So in our early attempt at sketching the story, we wrote: Beginning: Amy’s father (Dorcan Adderley) sends a henchman to hire Bernie Brandon to investigate the death of his daughter. Bernie rejects the henchman, but meets one to one with Dorcan, and agrees to take the job. And that was fine, for back then, but now we want to know more. So that little beginning description might expand to something like this. Example: Story beginning in more detail Beginning: Bernie Brandon is in his office. No work, nothing to do. There is whisky in his desk drawer and he is trying not to drink it.A big scary guy – suit, colourful – comes to hire him. Plonks down a roll of dollar bills. Too much money  for the job. There’s some wise-cracking interchange. Brandon refuses the job. Big scary guy leaves. Brandon gets the guys registration plate, phones it through to the cops – his former colleagues – and gets an ID.Brandon finds the henchman’s car that evening, tails it to a nightclub. Realises henchman guy is working for Dorcan Adderley – with whom he, Brandon, has some history. Brandon barges his way into Adderley’s office and says, in effect, “I don’t work for the staff. If I work for anyone, I work for the boss.”Adderley laughs and gets him a drink. [and so on.] Oh, and you know I said that thing about writing stuff down? That just thinking about it isn’t good enough? Well, I’m right, and here’s the proof. As I was writing that little section above, I thought, “Hey, where’s Amy ghost in this? She needs to make an early entry.” So I almost edited the example above to make room for her, but then realised that this post is meant to give you an example of the  Snowflake Method in action, and that means that I need to show you the bits I missed, the new insertions, the second thoughts . . . all the changes of direction that the Snowflake Method is there to permit. So for that reason, here’s my second shot at that beginning section: Beginning: Bernie Brandon is in his office – blah, blah, blah – all the same as before, right down to Brandon getting an ID for the henchperson.Brandon finds the henchman’s car that evening, and waits outside. As he’s waiting, he hears music – classical singing. Schubert Lieder. Strangely, the (female) singer is singing the exact song that Brandon had been playing on the piano shortly before coming out. He tries to find the source of the music, but it proves elusive. He has a constant sense of being watched.When Henchperson leaves the for the evening, Brandon tails him to a nightclub. [Then all as previously, except I think that ghostly presence has to vanish, almost petulantly, as she/Brandon get close to Dorcan Adderley.] Yeah. That’s better, right? We’ve got a lovely double note coming into the start of that book. A contemporary reader would think, “Yep, this feels a little like Raymond Chandler, but with a subtle , strange different element that I can’t yet place. I like it.” 7 Keep Going Until You’re Ready To Stop Planning, And Starting Writing Your Novel The guy who popularised the Snowflake Method, Randy Ingermanson, has a pretty fixed bunch of guidelines on how you’re meant to do this. So you’re meant to go from a one paragraph description of the story, to a one page / four paragraph description of the story / then onto a full four page description of the story. Something similar applies to the other elements of your novel. If that works for you, then go for it! But really there are no fixed rules here, and no set end-goal. Or rather the only two fixed rules are: You have to write stuff down You have to circle round between story / characters / themes / settings,adding detail on every go round. And the only end-goal that matters is this: When you feel super-ready to start writing your novel –and not just ready, but actually impatient –then you can start writing your book. Personally, I’m not much of a planner, so I tend to jump into my books sooner rather than later (and, I’ll admit, sometimes regret my decision.) The mere fact that you’re reading this post suggests to me that you’ve got a good bit of planner in you (or you’re just procrastinating quite badly), in which case I think a reasonable stopping point would be as follows. You will have: Several pages of notes / ideas about your major charactersAt least a page on your most important secondary charactersSeveral pages talking about settings, locations, themes, time of year, etc. All the background stuff that will make your novel live and breathe.3-4 pages of notes on your story, and those pages will include . . .A full page (or more) on the beginning / set-up phase of your book. That’ll include the Initiating Incident (in our example, that’s the henchman/Brandon meeting but, even more so, the Brandon/Dorcan Adderley one), but you’ll probably also find yourself describing the immediate consequences of that incident. The Set-Up Phase will probably account for about 25% of your actual final finished novel.You will probably also have a page or so on the Climax and Resolution of your novel. In our example, it would involve the the denouement of the mystery (“Who killed Amy Adderley?”), the physical showdown between Dorcan Adderley and Brandon, and the romantic climax too (the ghost and the PI playing sad classical music into the small hours.) This Climax & Resolution Material will cover the final 25% of the novelThen you’ll also have something on that awkward middle section – the middle 50% – that we just label ‘Developments’. You want to know the truth here? Most authors – including pro authors with multiple books, and even perhaps multiple bestsellers under their belts – will tend to struggle with that ‘Developments’ section. When writers complain about their work (and we mostly love it), the mos tly love it), the most frequent reason is that they’re encountering the rocks and white water that mark the transition from Set-up to Developments. So, my own personal guidance (which you should tailor to suit your own personality and your own experience with your particular story) would be to make a decent shot at guessing what your developments section would look like. So I certainly wouldn’t advise that you just ignore it completely. But when you start writing your novel, be aware that you may need to pause once the book is about 25% written, so you can come back to a version of this exercise and redo it. Why redo it? Because you’ll be returning to your story outline process with much greater feel for your characters, your settings, all the richness of that set-up material, and so on. That richness will give you a ton of insight into how to navigate the rocks that lie ahead. If you’re a planner, then you may want to synopsise the entire novel at that point. You might even find that you can do it chapter by chapter. I can’t do it that way – never have, never will – but I do still take a moment at the 25% mark to rethink where I’m going. (Oh, and when I say “take a moment”, what I actually mean is “Spend two weeks grumbling around the house and looking for excuses to do anything else other than sit in front of my laptop and work.” I LOVE writing, and I love being a writer. But that part of the planning process? I do not love.) Ready To Start Writing Your Novel? Get help. It may make the difference between success or failure. When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t write much of an outline. I didn’t plan anything very much. I just sat and wrote. And yes, that novel got published and did well. But yes, I also ended up doing a ton more work than I would have done if I’d planned properly from the start. And my second novel? Well, it was just a total car crash, because I thought I knew how to write novels, when I really, really didn’t. We’ve talked through a lot of the technique you’re going to bring to bear in your own writing journey, and – believe me – that technique is going to reward you a million times over. But wouldn’t you like more help than that? Of course you would! Writing is a pretty lonely business, and wouldn’t it be great if you could: Get comments and feedback on your work from like-minded writers?Get the benefit of a massive super-premium video course on How To Write?Watch filmed masterclasses from top tutors teaching specific examples of writing technique?Meet literary agents and editors online, so you can get a feel for the industry you want to be a part of?Get an entire video course on Getting Published from a bunch of people who have helped hundreds of people like you get published?Watch films & videos especially created for writers like you and focusing on the questions and issues that writers like you are interested in?Have a kind of “Agony Aunt” for writers service, where you could just bring your questions and have them answered with tact and expertise? That sounds good, doesn’t it . . . but surely not for real? Surely nothing like that actually exists? Well, yes, it does. And you’re right here on the site that can make all that happen. Jericho Writers is a club for writers like you and we welcome new members. Once you take out a membership, everything that we can provide digitally comes to you for free. Every course, every video, the entire community, everything. Membership is cheap and you can cancel any time. There are no restrictions at all on how much of our content you can access during the course of your membership. The Snowflake Method is a truly great way to develop and plan your novel outline. But Jericho Writers can help with absolutely everything: writing, publishing, self-publishing, everything. You can learn more about us here, or just join us today. We look forward to welcoming you!
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US literary agents representing politics and current affairs

‘Non-fiction’ covers a wide range of subjects, and in this case, politics and current affairs offers a broad and eclectic market. There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Betsy Amster   Amy Elizabeth Bishop  Dado Derviskadic  Stuart Krichevsky  Rita Rosenkranz  Gordon Warnock  Howard Yoon Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  If your book isn’t strictly about politics but about how society works, think Malcolm Gladwell, or similar to Michael Lewis and addresses specific aspects of how the world works, then agents within this category are likely a good match for you.  It’s important to remember that no agents only specialise in politics and current affairs. Your agent is likely to represent a range of areas including serious and topical non-fiction, fiction, as well as other lighter non-fiction subjects, too. This doesn’t mean that your agent won’t have the necessary connections. He or she will have them and will be motivated to place your work in the best (and most lucrative) place possible.  Good luck! 
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Literary agents for politics and current affairs

‘Non-fiction’ covers a wide range of subjects, and in this case, politics and current affairs offers a broad and eclectic market. There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Betsy Amster   Amy Elizabeth Bishop  Dado Derviskadic  Stuart Krichevsky  Rita Rosenkranz  Gordon Warnock  Howard Yoon Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  If your book isn’t strictly about politics but about how society works, think Malcolm Gladwell, or similar to Michael Lewis and addresses specific aspects of how the world works, then agents within this category are likely a good match for you.  It’s important to remember that no agents only specialise in politics and current affairs. Your agent is likely to represent a range of areas including serious and topical non-fiction, fiction, as well as other lighter non-fiction subjects, too. This doesn’t mean that your agent won’t have the necessary connections. He or she will have them and will be motivated to place your work in the best (and most lucrative) place possible.  Good luck! 
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Literary agents for memoir, true story and autobiography

There’s a very broad and eclectic group of books covered by this. If your book isn’t strictly about politics but is (like Malcolm Gladwell’s) about how society actually works or (like Michael Lewis’s) about specific aspects of how the world works, then you are probably still looking for agents who work in this same broad category. Do be aware that no agents specialise only in this area. You should expect your agent to represent not merely serious, topical non-fiction, but also (most likely) plenty of fiction, and plenty of other non-fiction as well. That doesn’t mean the agent concerned won’t have the necessary connections. He or she will have them and be motivated to place your work in the best (and most lucrative) place possible. AGENTMATCH AND HOW TO USE IT On AgentMatch, there are plenty of politics-loving agents and you won’t want to approach them all. The best way to develop and refine your own shortlist of likely targets is to visit our page and use the search tools on the left to make your selection. You can select by genre (e.g. current affairs) but you can also select by the agent’s level of experience, their appetite for new clients, and very much more. Our database is completely comprehensive and it’s really, really easy to create the searches you want. The site is designed to give users a good feel for the data and functionality for free, but the real riches of our site are available only to members.
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A letter to myself

The Festival of Writing 2018 – and How All Was Not LostBy Sophie Beal Dear Myself-of-the-Weeks-Before-the-Festival, This letter is for you, poring over the Jericho resources, searching for wisdom on those ultimate questions: how can I know the Festival won’t be a waste of time and money? And what if, instead of an agent, I get conclusive proof I’m delusional? These are the things you’ll want to know up front. You don’t make any of the competition shortlists.You have a very depressing 1-2-1.That dream, where agents and publishers stalk you? It doesn’t happen. You’re now wondering if you should cut your losses, stay in Bournemouth and save the petrol. Keep reading. Sometimes, people meet their agent in the coffee queue. This is unlikely in your case. Either, you’ll be too scared to strike up conversation, or not be scared enough and say something really stupid. So there you are. Four hundred and sixty pounds down, no chance of representation and surrounded by three hundred odd people all after roughly the same thing. It’s going to be murder, right? That’s what you’re thinking. That first 1-2-1 is not the agent’s fault. She’s lovely, but doesn’t think you’re the next Tolstoy. “I’m getting caught up in the medical red tape,” she says. She has no idea of the time you’ve spent trying to make sure that didn’t happen. You sit there and listen. You write notes. You return to your session. Then you go back to your room and grieve. After all, unless something magic happens, this is probably the end of the line for your novel. After eleven years. If you could fit this into the hour and a half before dinner, it would be an ideal time and place. It’s quiet. There are no children asking you for snacks or arbitration. But you’ve a soul to vomit and mealtime comes all too soon. You’re not pretty when you cry. People will assume you’re dying of something they don’t want to catch. Or they’ll know the truth – that you’re not as good as you hoped. You drag Rachel, your trusty writing partner, to your room. She gives you a good hug, and supervises you while you rinse your eyes in warm water and make your way towards food. And there you meet someone else who hasn’t yet had either of their 1-2-1s, but is thoroughly fed up with the submission process. You share your own tale of woe. And the lady on the other side shares hers. And you say things to each other you would usually reserve for the mirror (or Rachel). Like, “I think I’m good.” Someone buys three gins and tonic and instead of slipping out before Friday Night Live, you surprise yourself by staying up to whinge until eleven thirty (that’s three am in young person time). You’re still feeling a little fragile the next morning, but all that panic-surfing has paid off. You remember Emma Darwin’s blog. You have your first coherent thoughts: You really didn’t think your world through before you wrote your novel. Your main characters are academic anaesthetists. How many non-medics know those exist? And there’s so much more you need to set up alongside the love story, including the ambition and rivalry. World-building in these circumstances is difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the novel is doomed.The agent didn’t criticise your prose, your first page, or your characterisation. A lot of your work has paid off.Mandy Berriman had a difficult journey to publication. People have told you she’s lovely. You will try to speak to her. Together with a cooked breakfast, you’ve reason enough to get out of bed. Penny Holroyde and Allie Spencer sit at your table in the canteen. This is the moment you should try and impress Penny who is after all an agent. But when they ask you about your festival, you end up telling them the truth. It’s the best thing you can do. They are both lovely. “So many published authors I know, have a novel they love but can’t sell,” says Allie. “It doesn’t mean it’s not any good.” You talk about easy reading for thinkers.  She wrote her first romantic comedy about a young barrister, so understands your world-building issues and gives you some pointers. You come away thoroughly inspired. That is your “all is lost moment” done and dusted. Having planned plenty of alone time, you don’t miss a thing after that: Sarah Pinborough may apologise for waffling in her keynote lecture, but has everyone in stitches as she describes life as a published author. And everyone’s crying by the end of Julie Cohen’s session about Pixar story-telling. At the book club and literary industry panel you’re told genre boundaries are blurring. Pinning your book down as literary or commercial doesn’t matter as much as it did. Finally, someone produces a useful definition of book club fiction. It’s obvious really: “something people want to talk about with their friends.” You contemplate skiving the Futurecast session. It’s on Sunday morning; you’re tired and already know vampires are out, uplit and psychological thrillers in. But there’s loads more to learn. Afterwards, everyone you speak to is considering self-publishing. And somewhere in the middle of all that, you have a second 1-2-1. It’s far more relaxed than your first, possibly because you now know the problem. You bring up the world-building issue yourself. She suggests emphasising the love story over the setting from the start. But she says, “You’re clearly a very good writer.” You have time left. You could show her your elevator pitch for novel number two, but you forget and use the minutes up blithering about how much her opinion means to you. There you are: three competitions, two 1-2-1s and no agent. But you now understand more about how you could fit into the industry. And you’ve found the rest of the people like you in the world. The money isn’t wasted. On Sunday morning, you listen to Mandy Berriman’s keynote session and her full story of knockbacks, perseverance and eventual success with her second novel. Over lunch, you tell your fellow writers about your novel number two. “That one will be so much easier to sell. I can condense the idea down into a few sentences.” You tell them it’s about a couple about to abandon fertility treatment when the woman is raped. She then discovers she is pregnant. She thinks the baby is her husband’s. He thinks she’s delusional and wants an abortion. Someone says, “I’m wondering what I’d do.” And someone else, “You need to write that.” Then you remember you’re actually on your second draft. This sets off those pesky dreams again. You see yourself up on the main stage, about to publish your first novel as your second. The editor next to you is saying, “I couldn’t believe she had something so marvellous in her bottom drawer.” With very best wishes Sophie Beal Sophie came to the Festival of Writing 2018. She did not get an agent, but did get inspired. Has this inspired you to come along next year? Keep you eye on our events for more.
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Literary agents for food and cookery books

The Festival of Writing 2018 – and How All Was Not LostBy Sophie Beal Dear Myself-of-the-Weeks-Before-the-Festival, This letter is for you, poring over the Jericho resources, searching for wisdom on those ultimate questions: how can I know the Festival won’t be a waste of time and money? And what if, instead of an agent, I get conclusive proof I’m delusional? These are the things you’ll want to know up front. You don’t make any of the competition shortlists.You have a very depressing 1-2-1.That dream, where agents and publishers stalk you? It doesn’t happen. You’re now wondering if you should cut your losses, stay in Bournemouth and save the petrol. Keep reading. Sometimes, people meet their agent in the coffee queue. This is unlikely in your case. Either, you’ll be too scared to strike up conversation, or not be scared enough and say something really stupid. So there you are. Four hundred and sixty pounds down, no chance of representation and surrounded by three hundred odd people all after roughly the same thing. It’s going to be murder, right? That’s what you’re thinking. That first 1-2-1 is not the agent’s fault. She’s lovely, but doesn’t think you’re the next Tolstoy. “I’m getting caught up in the medical red tape,” she says. She has no idea of the time you’ve spent trying to make sure that didn’t happen. You sit there and listen. You write notes. You return to your session. Then you go back to your room and grieve. After all, unless something magic happens, this is probably the end of the line for your novel. After eleven years. If you could fit this into the hour and a half before dinner, it would be an ideal time and place. It’s quiet. There are no children asking you for snacks or arbitration. But you’ve a soul to vomit and mealtime comes all too soon. You’re not pretty when you cry. People will assume you’re dying of something they don’t want to catch. Or they’ll know the truth – that you’re not as good as you hoped. You drag Rachel, your trusty writing partner, to your room. She gives you a good hug, and supervises you while you rinse your eyes in warm water and make your way towards food. And there you meet someone else who hasn’t yet had either of their 1-2-1s, but is thoroughly fed up with the submission process. You share your own tale of woe. And the lady on the other side shares hers. And you say things to each other you would usually reserve for the mirror (or Rachel). Like, “I think I’m good.” Someone buys three gins and tonic and instead of slipping out before Friday Night Live, you surprise yourself by staying up to whinge until eleven thirty (that’s three am in young person time). You’re still feeling a little fragile the next morning, but all that panic-surfing has paid off. You remember Emma Darwin’s blog. You have your first coherent thoughts: You really didn’t think your world through before you wrote your novel. Your main characters are academic anaesthetists. How many non-medics know those exist? And there’s so much more you need to set up alongside the love story, including the ambition and rivalry. World-building in these circumstances is difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the novel is doomed.The agent didn’t criticise your prose, your first page, or your characterisation. A lot of your work has paid off.Mandy Berriman had a difficult journey to publication. People have told you she’s lovely. You will try to speak to her. Together with a cooked breakfast, you’ve reason enough to get out of bed. Penny Holroyde and Allie Spencer sit at your table in the canteen. This is the moment you should try and impress Penny who is after all an agent. But when they ask you about your festival, you end up telling them the truth. It’s the best thing you can do. They are both lovely. “So many published authors I know, have a novel they love but can’t sell,” says Allie. “It doesn’t mean it’s not any good.” You talk about easy reading for thinkers.  She wrote her first romantic comedy about a young barrister, so understands your world-building issues and gives you some pointers. You come away thoroughly inspired. That is your “all is lost moment” done and dusted. Having planned plenty of alone time, you don’t miss a thing after that: Sarah Pinborough may apologise for waffling in her keynote lecture, but has everyone in stitches as she describes life as a published author. And everyone’s crying by the end of Julie Cohen’s session about Pixar story-telling. At the book club and literary industry panel you’re told genre boundaries are blurring. Pinning your book down as literary or commercial doesn’t matter as much as it did. Finally, someone produces a useful definition of book club fiction. It’s obvious really: “something people want to talk about with their friends.” You contemplate skiving the Futurecast session. It’s on Sunday morning; you’re tired and already know vampires are out, uplit and psychological thrillers in. But there’s loads more to learn. Afterwards, everyone you speak to is considering self-publishing. And somewhere in the middle of all that, you have a second 1-2-1. It’s far more relaxed than your first, possibly because you now know the problem. You bring up the world-building issue yourself. She suggests emphasising the love story over the setting from the start. But she says, “You’re clearly a very good writer.” You have time left. You could show her your elevator pitch for novel number two, but you forget and use the minutes up blithering about how much her opinion means to you. There you are: three competitions, two 1-2-1s and no agent. But you now understand more about how you could fit into the industry. And you’ve found the rest of the people like you in the world. The money isn’t wasted. On Sunday morning, you listen to Mandy Berriman’s keynote session and her full story of knockbacks, perseverance and eventual success with her second novel. Over lunch, you tell your fellow writers about your novel number two. “That one will be so much easier to sell. I can condense the idea down into a few sentences.” You tell them it’s about a couple about to abandon fertility treatment when the woman is raped. She then discovers she is pregnant. She thinks the baby is her husband’s. He thinks she’s delusional and wants an abortion. Someone says, “I’m wondering what I’d do.” And someone else, “You need to write that.” Then you remember you’re actually on your second draft. This sets off those pesky dreams again. You see yourself up on the main stage, about to publish your first novel as your second. The editor next to you is saying, “I couldn’t believe she had something so marvellous in her bottom drawer.” With very best wishes Sophie Beal Sophie came to the Festival of Writing 2018. She did not get an agent, but did get inspired. Has this inspired you to come along next year? Keep you eye on our events for more.
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US Literary Agent Listings

This post has (at the bottom) a complete and regularly updated list of the literary agents active in the United States. By clicking through to each agent, you will also find which literary agencies they belong to. Just Want A List Of All Us Literary Agents? Then keep scrolling, buddy. You’ll find everything you want a little further down. If you want a list of agents active in the United Kingdom, you’re on the wrong page. Hum God Save The Queen, throw a Union Jack round your shoulders, and teleport over here instead. Want A Quick Reminder Of How To Get An Agent? Finding a literary agent to take on, edit, sell and champion your work is a career-defining moment for any traditionally oriented writer. But it’s career-defining partly because it’s hard to achieve. So let’s try to keep this simple. Here’s what you need to do to attract a literary agent: Step 1: Write a wonderful book.That’s hard, admittedly, but you’re on this page because you’re serious. Step 2: Compile a longlist of qualified literary agents.A qualified literary agent is one who is (A) in the right country, (B) open to your genre, and (C) reasonably open to taking on new work and new clients. Once you have that longlist – which could easily run to 100+ names – you can start to filter it. Our AgentMatch tool allows you to select agents by genre at the click of a button. You can search by literary fiction, women’s fiction, crime thriller, romance, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, and pretty much every other genre you can think of – including all major non-fiction genres. Learn more about AgentMatch. Step 3: Narrow down to a shortlist of 10-12 namesOnce you have your longlist, you need to work to find the ones who jump out at you – normally because you find a point of contact. You’re looking for something that seems to connect the kind of reader that agent is with the kind of writer you are. A shared favourite author. A passion for steampunk. Book set in your agent’s childhood state. Shared passion for the ocean. The point of contact doesn’t matter. Just find agents who sing to you. Step 4: Write a brilliant query letter Sounds hard, but it’s really easy. All you need to do is read our amazing query letter advice – and follow it. Step 5: Write a sizzling synopsis Sounds very hard, but it’s also very easy. There are two big tricks to writing a successful synopsis fast and easily. We tell you what they are (and with some bonus tips included) on our synopsis page. Step 6: Give your manuscript and opening chapters a last check Look: I’m not about to tell you how to write a book. But you probably want to check your opening chapters meet the basic requirements for professional manuscript format. You will probably also be interested to learn what we think are the most common mistakes made in the kind of manuscripts that go out to literary agents. If you want a properly complete guide to getting an agent, you can get here. Phew! Literary Agents: All You Need To Know Agents sell manuscripts to publishersAll the agents in the US are listed on this pageYou need to shortlist 10-12 agentsWrite a synopsisWrite a query letterSubmit your work to your shortlisted agentKeep your fingers crossed How To Use Agentmatch To Find Your Literary Agent AgentMatch gives you a complete, easily searchable list of all literary agents in the US – and all those in the United Kingdom too. Our English-speaking, graduate researchers have put together profiles of all literary agents out there, making use of ALL publicly available information (not just that on the agent’s website.) Then we make it incredibly easy to search: By countryBy genreBy experienceBy level of interest in acquiring new writersSize of literary agencyAnd much else Each agent has a detailed profile, including photo wherever possible – so you can complete an entire search process in a swift and completely non-haphazard way. Sounds good right? Except presumably we’re going to ask you for a ton of money. Except – no. We’re writers too, so we offer a free trial of Agent Match . That gives you access to ALL the data, not just profile summaries. You can also get access to our search tools, which allow you to compile your agent longlist in about 20 seconds . . . and compile a really effective shortlist in the time it takes to drink a couple cups of coffee and maybe eat a croissant too. And “free trial” means just that. We don’t ask you for any payment details. We don’t restrict your usage of the site. Any data you collect, you are welcome to retain and use for your own purposes. (We’re nice like that!) You can get your free trial here. We hope you love it! Meantime, we promised you a complete list of every literary agent currently active in the United States. So scroll on down and knock yourself out. Or actually – don’t. Knocking yourself out? Ouch. Just scroll. US Literary Agents: The List Dominick AbelLisa AbelleraLaurie AbkemeierLauren AbramoJosh AdamsTracey AdamsNalini AkolekarRica AllannicJessica AlvarezBetsy AmsterClaire Anderson-WheelerNatalia AponteAmelia AppelFaye AtchisonSteven AxelrodMargaret BailJohn F. BakerNoah BallardJulie BarerDenise BaroneAndrea BarzviAndrea BarzviRachel BeckSarah BedingfieldFaye BenderJenny BentElizabeth BewleyMatt BialerLauren BiekerVicky BijurAmy Elizabeth BishopDavid BlackLaura Blake PetersonCaitlin BlasdellBrettne BloomJanna BonikowskiEmma Borges-ScottMichael BourretBrenda BowenHannah BowmanJaidree BraddixLaura BradfordBarbara BraunRegina BrooksRachel BrooksAndrea BrownDanielle BukowskiDanielle BurbyPenelope BurnsMadelyn BurtSheree BykofskyJoquelle CaibyTess CalleroKimberley CameronBeth CampbellCynthia CannellCarrie CantorVictoria CappelloVictoria CappelloElise CapronLoretta CaravetteMoses CardonaJennifer CarlsonLucy CarsonTerra ChalbergJamie ChamblissSonali ChanchaniJennifer Chen TranMelissa ChincholloWilliam ClarkJune ClarkGinger ClarkChristina CliffordAmy CloughleyFrances CollinLeila CompoliCristina ConcepcionMichael CongdonBill ContardiElizabeth CoppsElizabeth CoppsElizabeth CoppsMarisa CorvisieroLaura CrockettClaudia CrossMary CummingsMichael CurryRichard CurtisJohn CusickKerry D’AgostinoKerry D’AgostinoLaura DailMelissa DanaczkoLiz DarhansoffArielle DatzSarah DaviesNaomi DavisLiza DawsonBrian DeFioreStacia DeckerJoelle DelbourgoStephanie DelmanStephanie DelmanDado DerviskadicSandra DijkstraRachel Dillon FriedRachel Dillon FriedLucienne DiverJohn DoJohn DoAdriana DomínguezHenry DunowDavid DuntonJane DystelArielle EckstutLindsay EdgecombeMelissa EdwardsDanielle Egan-MillerSusanna EinsteinCaroline EisenmannLeigh EisenmannRachel EkstromSally EkusLisa EkusLisa EkusLisa EkusLisa EkusLisa EkusLisa EkusMatthew ElblonkEthan EllenbergGareth EserskyFelicia EthMary EvansSuzy EvansKemi FaderinSorche FairbankAlison FargisKatherine FaussetJessica FaustLeigh FeldmanHannah FergesenHannah FergesenHannah FergesenHannah FergesenMoe FerraraJenni Ferrari-AdlerDiana FinchCeleste FineCherise FisherHeather FlahertyJennifer FlanneryChristy FletcherCaitie FlumJacqueline FlynnEmily ForlandRoz FosterGráinne FoxAlexandra FranklinWarren FrazierMatthew FrederickJeanne FredericksGrace FreedsonMolly FriedrichLouise FuryNadeen GayleEllen GeigerJane GelfmanJeff GereckeLilly GhahremaniAnna GhoshAlex GlassCathy GleasonStacey GlickMiriam GoderichBarry GoldblattFrances GoldinConnor GoldsmithVeronica GoldsteinJennifer GoloboyIrene GoodmanDoug GradRebecca GradgingerSusan GrahamBen GrangeSylvie GreenbergDaniel GreenbergEvan GregoryKatie GrimmLisa GrubkaRobert GuinslerKatelyn HalesJordan HamessleyFaith HamlinCarrie HanniganElizabeth HardingSandy HardingDawn HardyMichael HarriotJoy HarrisAdam HarrisErin HarrisRoss HarrisCate HartPamela HartyHilary HarwellJennifer HaskinAnne HawkinsAnne HawkinsRichard HenshawSaritza HernandezJennifer HerreraAli HerringChrista HeschkeEdward HibbertGail HochmanScott HoffmanMarkus HoffmannDeborah HofmannMichael HooglandErin HosierCarrie HowlandAmy HughesKristy HunterLeon HusockAnnie HwangJennifer JacksonEleanor JacksonAmanda JainNicole JamesAllison JaniceMelissa JeglinskiAlyssa JennetteKaitlyn JohnsonKaitlyn JohnsonRosie JonkerRia JulienJody KahnElianna KanCynthia KaneMaggie KaneJulia KardonTrena KeatingShana KellyJulia KennyKat KerrEmily KeyesJennifer KimJeff KleinmanHarvey KlingerDeidre KnightGinger KnowltonLinda KonnerKatie KotchmanElizabeth KrachtStuart KrichevskyMary KrienkeMiriam KrissMaura Kye-CasellaSarah LaPollaNatalie LakosilSarah LandisHeide LangeKatherine LatshawJennifer LaughranDon LaventhallThao LeVictoria LeaBetsy LernerLisa LeshneAmanda LeuckJim LevineWendy LevinsonBibi LewisJudy LindonKim LionettiLaurie LissBarbara LowensteinSandy LuEric LupferJonathan LyonsJohn MaasDonald MaassAlison MacKeenJoanna MacKenzieGina MaccobyTom MackayNeeti MadanDorian MaffeiDan MandelCarol MannJillian ManusJennifer March SolowayTracy MarchiniVictoria MariniJill MarrEvan MarshallTaylor Martindale KeanPeter MatsonJennifer MattsonEd MaxwellMargret McBrideBridget McCarthyJim McCarthyCameron McClureDavid McCormickCaitlin McDonaldErin McFaddenMatt McGowanLaurie McLeanSara MegibowDaniel MenakerScott MendelPooja MenonLeslie MeredithMarianne MerolaJosh MetzlerJosh MetzlerMartha MillardPeter MillerTom MillerEmily MitchellHeather MitchellPenny MooreMary C. MooreChristine MorganEmmanuelle MorgenNatascha MorrisGary MorrisAdam MuhligDana MurphyEdward Necarsulmer IVPenny NelsonKristin NelsonDana NewmanKiana NguyenErin NiumataRenee NyenLorin OberwegerMonica OdomNeil OlsonEdward OrloffRachel OrrKathleen OrtizJessica PapinVeronica ParkElana Roth ParkerJoseph ParsonsRick PascocelloSarah PassickEmma Paterson1David PattersonSharon PelletierTravis PenningtonKim PerelSarah PerilloLori PerkinsLara PerkinsCarrie PestrittoKelly PetersonAriana PhilipsAemilia PhillipsBarbara PoelleTina PohlmanRuth PomeranceLana PopovicMarcy PosnerLinda PrattKortney PricePilar QueenShaheen QureshiCortney RadocajSusan RaihoferSusan RamerKiele RaymondJoseph RegalJanet ReidWilliam ReissAllison RemcheckLaura RennertMaria RibasMichelle RichterRachel RidoutAnn RittenbergBJ RobbinsSoumeya Bendimerad RobertsQuressa RobinsonJennifer RoféAdrienne RosadoAnn RoseJanet RosenRita RosenkranzAndy RossGail RossGail RossWhitney RossGrace A RossStephanie RostanPeter RubieJohn RudolphCaryn Karmatz RudyKathleen RushallJim RutmanRegina RyanPeter RyanTamar RydzinskiRaphael SagalynJean SagendorphJesseca SalkySteven SalpeterStefanie Sanchez Von BorstelVictoria SandersTodd SatterstonAdam SchearSusan SchlumanKathleen SchmidtDeborah SchneiderHannah SchwartzYishai SeidmanKatie Shea BoutillierWendy ShermanJeff SilbermanErica Rand SilvermanMeredith Kaffel SimonoffTricia SkinnerVictoria SkurnickLatoya C SmithSarah SmithKaren SolemAndrea SombergKelly SonnackKerry SparksElaine SpencerLauren SpiellerJessica SpiveyAnna Sproul-LatimerRebecca SteadStephanie SteikerUwe StenderMyrsini StephanidesJenny StephensJL StermerPaul StevensDoug StewartRosemary StimolaAdriana StimolaSam StoloffRobin StrausMarlene StringerRachel SussmanRachel SussmanRachel SussmanKari SutherlandMargaret Sutherland BrownDanielle SvetcovEmma SweeneyEmily Sylvan KimAlice TasmanBrent TaylorNephele TempestCraig TenneyNikki TerpilowskiTest TestKate TestermanHenry ThayerMeg ThompsonJohn ThornSuzie TownsendSteve TrohaElizabeth TroutJoy TutelaAnn Leslie TuttleJennifer UddenCindy UhJennifer UnterLaura UsselmanEmily Van BeekMonika VermaChuck VerrillRachel VogelLiza VogesJoanna VolpeChristopher VyceElizabeth WalesMaureen WaltersGordon WarnockMitchell WatersKira WatsonMackenzie Brady WatsonJessica WattersonCarlisle WebberElisabeth WeedFrank WeimannJamie Weiss ChiltonJustin WellsVictoria Wells ArmsJennifer WeltzMarcia WernickPhyllis WestbergPaige WheelerMelissa WhiteEugene WinickElizabeth Winick RubinsteinCaryn WisemanMichelle WitteChristine WitthohnSally Wofford-GirandTim WojcikKent WolfLaura WoodMonika WoodsJoanne WyckoffMaximilian XimenezSarah YakeHoward YoonLaura YorkeKatie ZanecchiaKatie ZanecchiaKieryn Ziegler
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Agents for Women’s fiction

Are you predominately writing for women or about women, and in need of an agent? Then look no further, we answer all your questions here. Plus, we’ll even introduce a few agents you may like to query!   There are plenty of agents looking for women’s fiction but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors should query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject areas, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. You can save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. We’ve done all the work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there.   So, if you want to get to know the agents below (as well as the other 900+ literary agents!) a little better, then take out our 7-day free trial and get searching.  Betsy Amster Rachel Brooks  Jennifer Chen Tran  Jessica Faust Jennifer Jackson  Donald Mass  Quressa Robinson  Latoya Smith Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! Women’s Fiction Women’s fiction is a rich and broad market. It covers many sub-genres: romance, domestic noir, and literary fiction, for example. A literary fiction novel need not cancel out that the novel may also be classed as a romance. Nor does a sub-genre like domestic noir mean that this is a genre read only by women, even though the publishing world tends to market the genre as such.  So, it’s important to be careful how you choose your book genre. Is it really a book club type of novel (i.e. accessible and literary)? Is it romance? Erotica?  Just because your book may be about a woman and her relationships (not necessarily a romantic one), it doesn’t mean that you should be describing your novel as women’s fiction. Instead think more about what kind of book it is and what type of agent you’d like. 
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How to find a US literary agent for non-fiction

Looking for a US literary agent that specialises in non–fiction? Here’s your guide to finding an agent; learn who they are, what they’re looking for and how to hook them.  Non-fiction Literary Agents There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.   We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles. After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some non-fiction agents to get you started: Rita Rosenkranz   Andy Ross  Sam Stoloff  Howard Yoon  Anna Sproul-Latimer  Scott Hoffman  Elisabeth Weed Dawn Hardy  Matt Bialer  Michael Bourret  Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  What Are Non-fiction Agents Looking For? Ultimately all literary agents are looking for a saleable manuscript. While non-fiction subjects can be varied, agents are generally interested in:  Celebrity-led projects, anything written or endorsed by a celebrity Strong and compelling memoirs Exotic travel stories, whether they’re funny or moving Popular science Narrative-led history Biographies, especially if the subject is well-known Major new diet or motivational work Strong and quirky one-off pieces LGBTQ+ themes.  The important thing to remember, is that unfortunately, no one is looking for niche. Anything specific with a narrow market, like local history books or biographies of unknown subjects, aren’t traditionally sought after by agents. You may find that your work might be picked up by the right publisher, but it’s unlikely you’ll get an agent for these types of projects.  You’ll notice that specialist and academic non–fiction isn’t listed here, either. That’s because your best bet would be to write up a book proposal and pitch directly to publishers who specialise in your subject area. You don’t typically need an agent for these.   Few agents focus solely on non-fiction projects. Most agents will build a fiction and non-fiction list, just as they would cultivate a literary and commercial list. The important thing to remember is that it’s the quality of the agent that really matters, not whether they specialise in a particular genre.  Having said that, there are some exceptions. As a general rule:  Authors of cookbooks, health and diet, or a how-to book may want an agent who does specialise in these areas. It’s definitely not an easy genre to break into, though. If you’re looking to work with a ghost-writer to help tell your story, then you’ll want to find an agent that has experience working on similar projects. But beware, very few personal stories warrant the cost of a ghost-writer. If you want to publish your story, then it’s worth writing it yourself – with our help, of course! Don’t forget you can research agent’s interests by either searching the relevant agency website, or by simply using our database of US and UK based literary agents, AgentMatch, to help narrow down your search.  How Do You Know What Literary Agents Want? This can be split into three categories: first, know what you need to query agents with.  For fiction submissions, you need to have written the whole book before querying agents. With non-fiction submissions, you can often get away with sending a book proposal, which is basically an outline of the book you intend to write, first.  If your book is story-led (think memoirs), then it would be worth writing the whole book before you submit to agents.  But if your non-fiction is subject based, then it‘s fine to start with the book proposal.  Secondly, deliver a saleable manuscript.  As I mentioned above, the only thing agents are really looking for is a manuscript that will sell well and make money. This means you need:  Strong, popular, entertaining writing – even if your subject is interesting, if the writing is poor no one’s going to want to read it! To write for the market. Obvious, yes, but a surprisingly high number of non–fiction authors don’t know who their intended market is. So, if you don’t know yours, then go to a bookstore or local library and find out.  And finally, get professional help. If you keep getting agent rejections or just want to perfect your manuscript first, then it’s time to ask for help. There’s lots of information out there. We’ve helped non-fiction authors in their writing journeys, and we can help you too. So, get in touch.  Best of luck with your submissions; and remember, let us know how you get on! 
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Just the Beginning: Getting Published by Eleanor Anstruther

By Eleanor Anstruther I got a call from my agent.  “I have news.” I sat on my kitchen table, my feet on a chair, my elbows on my knees, one finger jammed in the other ear, the better to hear. For the first time in days I hadn’t been obsessively checking my inbox; I’d let it go, I’d given up, I’d said to myself, oh well, I’ll just have to write something better.  I’d gone off to town with my children, I hadn’t looked at my phone all day till I was home and saw three missed calls and an email saying, do call when you have a minute.  I was holding the phone in my hands, staring at the screen, when it rang again. It’s a bit like when you’re pregnant for the first time, all you think about is the birth.  Not the aftermath, the what comes next, the slow reveal of fears you never thought you’d have.  I’d spent a decade driving at representation, a manuscript finished and loved and taken up by an agent.  When I signed with Jenny Savill following FoW16, I thought that was it.  It was a height I had dreamt of and not once had I thought beyond it.  It had never crossed my mind that anything would be as fraught. A friend once commented that being taken up by an agent was child’s play compared to selling to a publisher. A writer can submit to the same agent year on year if they want. But once a publisher turns your book down, that’s it. It’s a one shot game. At the beginning, with Frankfurt Book Fair looming and all the excitement of total ignorance, I was convinced I’d hear within days, hours, of easy success. Instead the weekly updates from Jenny were crammed with kind, encouraging notices of failure. It was three weeks into that torment of declines that Jenny gave me the best advice I’d ever had.  Lower your expectations she said to my whining misery that I hadn’t been bought overnight, that the industry moves at its own quiet pace, that clearly I knew nothing.  And when it seemed like pessimism was getting the better of me, she said It’s not over yet.  But Christmas came and went and my infant novel looked for all the world as if it would never make it to adulthood.  I practised saying it happens and searched for examples of Booker Prize winners who’d struggled to find air.  I got on with writing something else. A trip to town on a freezing afternoon at the end of January, my children needing boots, or the dentist, or maybe I just needed to get out of the kitchen and away from what felt like humiliation – I don’t remember anything of that day except coming home, and checking my phone for the first time since breakfast, and seeing three missed calls and an email.  When it rang in my hand my heart jumped and my breathing went funny. “We’ve had an offer.”  And then she told me who it was, and I sat on my kitchen table with my feet on a chair, and my elbows on my knees and one finger jammed in the other ear, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My debut, ‘A Perfect Explanation’, comes out in March 2019, published by Salt Books, one of the finest independent publishers of literary fiction.  It’s happening; the thing that I gave no thought to, that I presumed would be easy, and wasn’t and felt crushed by.  Those four months seem like nothing now, but looking back at the struggle, I have learnt this: that every step is a test of what you know and reveal of what you don’t, and when a brilliant and hard working agent and you decide to work together, remember it is just the beginning.
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Literary agents for crime, thrillers and action novels

\" Written a thriller or work of crime fiction and need a literary agent? You’re in the right place. AgentMatch has a complete list of every agent in the UK with full detail about who they are and what kind of work they represent. So here’s what you do. Head over here.Click on the “select genres” box and choose “Crime & thrillers” from the pop-up list.You’ll find that there are a huge number of agents who represent work in this area. (Basically: most of them will happily represent crime; there are just about no agents who specialise only in that area.) So you’ll need to filter your list some more. Use our other search tools to bring your selection down to a manageable total.Then dive into individual agent profiles and read what each agent says about themselves.Make your final shortlist selection The twist in the tail All you need to access all our lovely data and search functionality? \"
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7 years to publication, 7 things I’ve learned

Isabel Costello’s debut novel Paris Mon Amour was released in June 2016 in digital and audiobook. She also hosts the Literary Sofa blog, where you can find her selection of recommended Summer Reads 2016. Isabel attended the  Festival of Writing in 2012 and 2013 and hopes to return one day! Like any endeavour measured in years, my journey to publication has many significant milestones, starting with the decision seven years ago to stop talking about wanting to write (don’t most people?) and get on with it (many people don’t). Fast-forward three years and I had a novel ready to submit to agents (or so I thought) and attending the Festival of Writing for the first time in 2012 was a watershed. As well as being sociable, stimulating and educational, it made me realise just how many people shared my precise goal of getting their novel published. It was the best kind of wake-up call: slightly alarming at the time but the catalyst for good things. Without it I doubt I’d have reached – another four years later! – the most exciting landmark so far: publication of my debut novel. Many people have been astonishingly generous and supportive on a road that’s had a few bumps, as most paths to publication do. I’ve learned a lot – and not just about how to write books. This is definitely not a ‘How to…’ (it’s pretty obvious I don’t have a magic formula.) For me and most of the writers I know, getting published has been mostly down to persistence and hard work. THE SECRET TO GETTING AN AGENT Free submission pack templateGET YOURS 1. READING MATTERS Reading as a writer alters the experience in a way that can be distracting, but noticing the structure, the language, even being able to guess the twist or the ending three chapters in (so annoying!) are signs of developing your own sense of what works. Payback time comes when you forget to register any of that because you’re so immersed in the story. That’s inspiration. It’s what you’re aiming for. 2. FRIENDS MATTER You might be – and hopefully are – writing ‘the book or story only you can write’ but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. The camaraderie and support amongst writers at all stages has been one of the best parts for me. It’s easy to others at events like the Festival of Writing – I’ve made wonderful friends this way I would never have met otherwise. But keep in touch with your other friends to avoid living in a literary bubble. 3. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BOOK – SERIOUSLY, IT IS And a very large side of luck and timing. In a business where getting anywhere is very hard, it’s easy to invent imaginary obstacles. It probably doesn’t hurt to be young, movie-star gorgeous with a life story as fascinating as your book, but it’s far from essential. Not saying they aren’t great, but you do not need an MA in creative writing. (I have no writing qualifications.) And don’t fret about ‘who you know’ (or don’t) in the business. Frankly, if that made a difference it wouldn’t have taken me this long to get published! 4. THERE’S NOTHING LIKE EDITORIAL INPUT This is a tricky one because it generally involves money, but the reality is that to get noticed by agents, publishers or competition judges you need to be submitting work that’s already of publishable standard, or very close. When I think mine’s good enough, it rarely is, and the honest, constructive input you need at that point is unlikely to come from anyone who’s not a confident and experienced editor. A structural edit following my first Festival of Writing transformed my fortunes entirely, resulting in a choice of agents. It was worth every penny. 5. DON’T PIN YOUR HAPPINESS ON AN OUTCOME YOU CAN’T CONTROL Learning to cope with the inevitable setbacks in a positive way is important, and something I’ve discussed openly along the way. Some advice from Lionel Shriver at an event I attended has stayed with me: write what matters to you – it’s the only way you can be sure your time is well spent. There are no guarantees in this business. Although it’s impossible to avoid completely, comparing yourself to others – your process, your book, your success – is not a good use of time or energy. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to focus on the only part I can control: producing the best work I can. Closely followed by enjoying other things! 6. VISUALISE WRITING SUCCESS, BUT NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE I know this sounds like a contradiction, but positive thinking can be a self-fulfilling prophesy too! I could always picture myself succeeding, however remote the prospect (and for a long time it really was). ‘Disruption’ in the book business has led to many new ways of reaching readers. I may not have anticipated my novel coming out first in digital and audio but I know an exciting opportunity when I see one. 7. THE RIGHT WAY TO WRITE IS THE WAY THAT WORKS FOR YOU Faced with the deluge of generic tips directed at writers, there’s an art to identifying those which motivate, assist and inspire you in your work – thereby making it more enjoyable, and you more likely to stick at it – and ignoring all the rest. For every person inspired by ‘write what you know’ or ‘write every day’ there are many more left cursing and grinding their teeth. Ultimately it’s not about the method; it’s the end result that matters. Structural feedback may just help you get there, too. MORE ON GETTING PUBLISHED Link to: How to Get Your Book Published GETTING PUBLISHED All you need to know
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How To Price An Ebook

The Publishing Industry Is In A State Of Change New authors face, for the first time, a real question about whether it makes sense to approach the market by the traditional agent and publisher route, or whether to go it alone. For now, I think most authors still need the resources and experience of proper publishers. There are some striking exceptions, of course, but it’s still notable how many self-published authors end up working with the biggest firms (E.L. James and Random House, for example.) But it’s still vital to understand this new market. And one of the most critical interrelationships is that between the price of an ebook and the eventual sales. I’ve just come across this chart, which is the best thing I’ve ever seen on that topic. What the chart says very simply is: price too high and you throttle sales. Price too low and you give away money without any addition to sales. (My guess is that readers assume, correctly, that a $0.99 ebook is often not going to be much good.) There’s a weird twist here, however. Traditional publishers are deeply reluctant to sell books at the $2.99 level. Although they might boost sales on an individual title by pricing low, they can’t boost sales overall by slashing prices because, in the end, a reader is only going to buy and read so many books a year. So there’s a curious way in which traditional authors are inhibited by their publishers. The most obvious and proven method of increasing sales (and readers) is to cut the ebook price … yet that’s the method least favoured by publishers. I still think that regular publishing is the best move for most authors. That’s not mere talk. I’ve got a non-fiction project that I’m tinkering with and am trying to figure out whether to sell it via my agent or whether to publish it myself online. I’ve not finally decided, but I’m inclining to go the conventional route. Like I say though, these things are moving all the time. The right answer today may well not be the right answer in a year’s time. As the Bard remarks, Don’t speak too soon, cos the wheel’s still in spin, and there’s no telling who that it’s naming. (And no, not that bard, this one.)
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A Question of Timing: When to Release Information in Your Plot

Haydn Middleton edited books for Oxford University Press before becoming a full-time writer. (Haydn’s Goodreads page shows a selection of his titles.) He has published seven novels for adults and an eighth is forthcoming in October 2018. This piece of writing is going to be about 1,200 words in length, and around the 900-word mark I’m going to tell you something that will blow your head off. Getting The Reader ‘in The Vehicle’ That’s a fairly crude way to open a blog post.If you’re a reader of refined sensibilities, it may well have put you off. (Another kind of reader again will go straight to the 900-word mark and check out whatever may be in store !) On the other hand, it may just have tickled your curiosity and made you think, ‘Whatever this showman has up his sleeve, it could be worth me hanging around until the 900-word mark, just in case his reveal is as big as he says.’ And that works for books, too. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events warns children away, but only makes them curious to read on . It’s a fine art, withholding information. So you will see at once that what I’m talking about here is – well – not talking about things. Or rather, making it clear to the reader that in due course you, the writer, will be delivering something rather tasty, but not quite yet. Because it’s not just about what twists your book can deliver – it’s how you, the author, will get us there.It’s the fine old writerly art of withholding information, and it can be classified within the box of technique tricks of known as ‘Getting the Reader in the Vehicle’. Jump In And Snap On Your Seatbelt I took that phrase about the Vehicle from the brilliant contemporary novelist and short-story writer, Haruki Murakami. He once wrote: “For me, a story is a vehicle that takes a reader somewhere. Whatever information you may try to convey, whatever you may try to open the reader’s emotions to, the first thing you have to do is get that reader into the vehicle.” It’s a sad but true fact that if you don’t fairly soon get that reader comfortably seated and belted in, then she probably isn’t going to go on the journey with you. And offering the “bait” of some juicy information that will be delivered a little further down the line can be a good way to encourage your reader to suspend her disbelief. But there are hazards in this approach, too. You can’t share too much, too soon, yet you need to share enough at once to engage interest. In writing your story, you might not choose to address your reader as directly as I did at the start of this piece.You might instead kick off with a scenario which is intriguing but inexplicable (an envelope which arrives in the post one morning, say, containing a human thumb and a pine cone). The implication is that by the end of the tale, the reader will at least have a clearer idea of what’s going on.If the recipient of that envelope himself doesn’t initially understand why he has been sent those things, that can be useful. Because while he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery, so too will the reader. Matters get more complicated if the recipient does know why he’s been sent the package and this is made clear to the reader (e.g. the recipient shows no shock, placing the envelope in a drawer with fifteen others of exactly the same shape and size). Then it is up to the narrator – first-person or third-person – whether he explains at once to the reader what is going on, or else he withholds the information till a later stage. Deftly handled, either approach might work. But ideally, the reader will want to feel that there is a damned good reason why she is not yet being let in on the secret. And what might such a reason be? I guess the main one is that the reader will have happily made a tacit agreement with the author that what he is presenting to her is a glorified joke, and no one wants to be told the punchline half way through a joke, or indeed at its very beginning. That can make for a rattling good read, especially in the case of works like the better short stories which Roald Dahl wrote for adult readers. There’sBut other kinds of fiction set out to pull off something a little more complicated, to present life in all its unmanageable and distinctly non-punchline-type glory. And it’s with regard to these other genres – which many Jericho Writers clients describe as broadly ‘more literary’ in submitting their scripts – that I’d like to talk from here on in. Smelling Rats And Driving Off Cliffs In telling a serious story about a serious subject (which, as The Catcher in the Rye triumphantly demonstrates, doesn’t mean there can’t also be plenty of humour along the way), it’s inadvisable to hold back key information about a character or situation merely in order to keep the reader reading. She will almost certainly smell a rat, lose faith in you as her driver (you’re taking her on a journey, remember), and jump out at the next set of traffic lights. I’d say this particularly holds true with third-person narratives. If a first-person narrator fails to mention that he is actually married with three children until just before the end of a memoir in which he has been describing his recent courtship of a foreign princess, he can at least claim to have been in denial.‘Unreliable narrators’, such individuals are called.* Amnesiac protagonists, like Christine in Before I Go To Sleep. Or protagonists who rationalise horror, like Fred Clegg in The Collector. Which leads me to the knotty issue of using multiple perspectives in a story, and by that I mean any number of points of view greater than one. I’ve lost count of the number of otherwise promising scripts I’ve read where things start to wobble, fatally, when an author forgets that Character A hasn’t yet found out what Character B has always known about Character C, who in turn has some dirt on Character A. In such cases, the author is not just having to withhold information from the reader, but also from the respective characters. Too much withholding, already! In my world, especially for new writers, there must be an irresistibly good reason ever to use more than a single narrative perspective, not least because then the author can often save himself the bother of writing about the same event twice over – which outside of courtroom dramas seldom makes for the most riveting read. But finally, don’t go away from this post imagining that you should declare absolutely everything about a character or a situation right up front. That can be just as much of a turn-off as keeping stuff concealed. How To Release Plot Information (Without Driving Off Cliffs) As in all things, there’s a happy medium to be found. Share with your readers just enough to keep them intrigued and reasonably informed, but not so much that they’ll be bored. Remembering this helps you time and control release of information for any plot. It might be an idea to think of this reader as an actual friend or acquaintance – use this as a litmus test as to how much you say at any given moment about the passing scenery. If you know that the road after the next bend will lead you straight over a cliff, you really ought to tell. If you feel compelled to share with them every fact you know about every tree you leave in your slipstream, ask yourself whether they would really want to have her ear bent about it. Now with all that advice under your bonnet, off you go. And happy motoring! *That was around the 900-word mark. You don’t have to believe everything you’re told in an opening paragraph. ‘Unreliable narrators’, we’re called. Haydn Middleton is a published author and editor at Jericho Writers. His next novel is to be published by Propolis Books in Autumn 2018. Find out more about Haydn over on our website or on his personal website.
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Festival Success: Joanna Cannon

Guest author extraordinaire and blogger Joanna Cannon attended our Festival of Writing in 2014. Jo walked away with seven offers from literary agents and eventually signed with Susan Armstrong from Conville and Walsh. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is her first novel, published by The Borough Press (HarperCollins), called ‘A delight’ by Paula Hawkins and ‘A wonderful debut’ by Jill Mansell. There is a certain, creeping horror, when I look back and think I nearly didn’t enter the Friday Night Live competition at the Festival of Writing. I was a real eager-beaver when it came to the Festival booking. I was logged in and ready to pick my one-to-ones the minute the website went live. But the competitions were a different matter altogether. They were A Scary Thing. I’d been to the Festival before, and watched other writers on stage, reading their work out to an audience of very important people. I didn’t want to do anything quite that scary. I’d much rather stick to the brilliant workshops and talks, and the Gala Dinner and scary (but slightly more manageably scary) one-to-ones. But right at the last minute (sorry, lovely organisers!), I changed my mind. It’s a strange business, this writing malarkey. We write because we have something to say, but when it comes to saying it, we run for cover at the thought of anyone actually hearing us. I avoided telling anyone I write. On the rare occasion I admitted it to someone, it was always accompanied by a slight apology for being so ridiculously self-indulgent. I don’t write anything very interesting, it’s just a little hobby, nothing will ever come of it, etc. ,etc. Yet in September last year, I found myself on a stage in York, with 500 words of my manuscript trembling away in my hands. I’m not going to lie, it was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced, and as I walked up to the microphone, I honestly felt my legs were going to give way. But it needed to be done. We spend so long agonising and doubting, and battling with our words, we really owe them a chance to be heard. Even if it is a Scary Thing. The best experiences of my life have usually started with more than a pinch of anxiety and, as it happened, this was going to be one of them. No matter what else life has in store for me, winning Friday Night Live is something I will always remember. Overcoming my fears, and looking out at the audience and seeing people raise their hands to vote for me, was the most incredible feeling (and if you were one of those lovely people, thank you!). It really was one of the best nights of my life. What I didn’t realise, was within hours of leaving York and heading back down the M1, I would have seven offers of agent representation. Seven amazing, incredibly skilled people who wanted to help me with my book. I felt like I’d either stumbled onto the set of a Richard Curtis film, or I was having a transient psychotic episode. After a very tense, tearful and pacey few days (I know it’s a great problem to have, but it was still very stressful!), I decided to sign with Sue Armstrong at Conville and Walsh. I met Sue during one of my one-to-ones, and I just knew we’d get along brilliantly. C&W represent some of my favourite authors, and it’s a huge privilege to be joining such a prestigious agency. Within a week, HarperCollins had offered a life-changing amount of money for my manuscript (the manuscript I was worried about showing anyone, because doing that would be a Scary Thing), and I began to spend large amounts of time staring into space and trying to believe it was all true. That’s when the creeping horror began. When I began to imagine what would have happened if I’d listened to the internal narrator we all have, the one who tells us to walk away from the Scary Thing. The Festival is the most wonderful, supportive, fun environment, filled with amazingly talented people, and I’ve learned so much in the time I’ve been going. I do hope I will see you there and I really hope you’ll ignore that ridiculous internal narrator, and enter all competitions. You have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain.
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Writers in conversation: Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste

Steve Cavanagh is a human rights lawyer working in Northern Ireland. The Defence is his debut novel, which was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards. Luca Veste, a former civil servant, guitarist and actor, is author of the Murphy & Rossi crime series and editor of the Spinetingler-nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. Luca – I’m endlessly fascinated by the story of a writer’s journey. I started out quite late – I thought – with my own writing career. I didn’t write stories or anything of that sort until I was 28, so I’ve only been at this thing of ours for a few years. Speaking to other writers however, I know there’s a fair few out there who started writing when they were young, in school, getting attention for having a big imagination. How did it start out for you? Steve – For me the desire to tell stories started early, but it took me a fair few years to get my ass in gear to do it. My Granda and my Dad would sit around with their friends, most nights, telling stories. I would just sit and listen, fascinated. Neither my Dad or my Granda read much, but my Mum did. She read four or five books a week, and I caught the crime bug from her. When I was young, far too young in retrospect, she gave me a copy of The Silence of the Lambs and that changed everything for me. I read all the books, especially American crime thrillers, that I could get my hands on. But when it came to writing, I didn’t write crime at first. In my late teens I started writing screenplays, mostly comedies. I even got an agent, but he couldn’t get anything sold so I gave up age 21. After that I always harboured the fantasy of writing a book, but never did it. Then in 2011, when I was aged 35, my Mum passed away quite suddenly. She was the only person who ever encouraged me to write so I thought I’d give it one more shot, for her. I started writing The Defence in September 2011, in secret, after a 14-year break. What about you? Starting at 28 doesn’t seem late at all. And you’ve still got your hair! Luca – Yes, although being half Italian, I would be very annoyed if I lost my hair this soon. We’re a hirsute bunch. Like you, I was surrounded by stories in my family. And jokes. Everyone always has a funny story to top the last one. My dad was a screenwriter as it happens and actually made a film back in the 90s. I was a voracious reader as a child as well. Started with Enid Blyton and then went into horror when I was a teenager. I didn’t really read crime until I was around 23 – which was about 7 years after I’d pretty much stopped reading and started doing “teenage” things – and someone gave me Mark Billingham’s first book. I quickly caught up with his series and have read predominantly crime books since. Dead Gone – my first book – started out life as a very different book and came from writing short stories and progressing to something longer. I abandoned the first version of that story – which was a woeful scouse gangster-style cliche of a novel – and wrote a first draft in a few months. Then, redrafted three times to finally land an agent for it around a year later. How long did it take you to get an agent? Steve – Well, first, Dead Gone is a blinder of a debut. The work paid off. Getting an agent? Well, that took a while. It took me about six or seven months to do the first draft of The Defence, then I spent maybe another six months redrafting it, polishing it. So I think it started looking for an agent mid-2012. And I finally got one in April 2013 so probably around nine months to get representation. And I tell you, those were a hard nine months. I started off trying to get a US agent, but I didn’t think I was good enough to go for any of the big agencies, so I mainly tried the small and medium sized agencies. And I got a lot of rejections. Then, I got a little hint of light at the end of the tunnel. I started to get requests for the first three chapters, from agents that just wanted a pitch letter, and then requests for the full manuscript. I got a real buzz from this and a bigger downer when the rejections came back. One agency really loved the first three chapters, and requested the full book. I was enthusiastic about this small UK based agency, but I’d been in that situation before, so I thought I may as well try a couple of the bigger agents. I was getting rejections, anyway, so I thought I may as well get rejected by the best. I remember it was a Monday night, I got the email from the small agency who’d read the full manuscript and who I’d been really keen on. They hated it. It was a rejection which contained the lines, “You can write, but this book will never be published. Write something else and we’ll read it.” Man, I was devastated. I thought, that’s it – this book is over I need to write something else. Then on the Wednesday I had two of the biggest agencies in the UK come back and offer representation for the same book that I’d been told would never be published. It was an amazing feeling. So now I’m very proud to be a Heathen (I’m represented by AM Heath). How did you hook up with your agent? Luca – I was quite bullish when it came to finding an agent. I knew a few other writers at the time and there were a couple who always raved about their agent. Now, I edited a couple of charity anthologies around that time, and I think that agent was tipped off that I was writing a novel. He sent me a message on Twitter saying good work on the anthologies, when you’ve got a novel to show people, I’d love to read it. That was back in February 2012. I finished the first draft in about March, read it once, thought it was as good as it was ever going to be, and sent it to the agent. He rejected it, somewhat nicely, a few weeks later. I took his notes on board, redrafted, and sent it back in the June. He rejected that one as well, with the option to resend another draft. I was, similar to you, devastated. I’d worked tirelessly on all the notes and only succeeded in creating new problems. By this point, I was convinced I couldn’t write a better book, so decided to send it to four other agents. One rejected within a day, as they had decided to concentrate on children’s fiction. The other three agents asked for the full manuscript. As a matter of courtesy, I emailed the original agent, who by now was quite friendly with me, and let him know I was showing other agents the book and was getting some interest. I received an email back straight away, asking if I could speak on the phone. What followed was ninety minutes of the agent telling me exactly what was wrong with the book, what need fixing, and a general tearing apart of my work. The last five minutes of the call was him offering me representation. I pretty much immediately accepted the offer. Best decision I’ve ever made. I rewrote the book in a month, working almost every hour I was awake (which as an insomniac, is quite a few), and he was happy with the result. What is bizarre, is that it took only six weeks after that to find a publisher. A year to get an agent, six weeks to get a publisher … shows how valuable a good agent can be, and I have a great one in Phil Patterson. The Defence is ridiculously good. To the point where I was hoping it wasn’t really a debut, but a new novel from an established writer under a pseudonym. I can only imagine it was picked up the next day by a publisher in a sixteen-way auction? Steve – That’s class. I love that story. What I hear sometimes from writers who are looking for an agent, or a publishing deal, is that they are quite precious about their book. Which is totally the wrong attitude. When you write your first book you basically know nothing. You learn by writing and then it’s your agent’s and publisher’s job to point out all the shit that you can’t see and make the book better. Thanks for the kind words about The Defence. It was picked up quick, but only after a lot of work. I got representation from Euan Thorneycroft in April 2013, and he sent me pages of notes on the book; what worked, what didn’t work. I knew we were a good match because everything he thought needed changing really did need changing, but I just couldn’t see that. So I worked on the book flat out, and we got it ready for submission in September. I remember Euan telling me he was sending it out and that it could take months to hear back, so he would email me in three or four weeks and let me know how we got on. That was on a Monday. On the Friday I was stood in my hall, when I got an email. It was from Euan – there was an offer for the book in the UK. Four offers. He would be conducting an auction. I was completely blown away. I remember running into the living room and telling my wife that the book would be published. At that stage I didn’t care who published it, but I knew somebody would and that was enough. In the end I went with Orion, who publish some of my heroes and things have worked out well. So in your first book we meet DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. How did you go about shaping those characters and did you conceive the first book as the beginning of a series? If you didn’t, is there anything you would change now? Luca – That’s my favourite kind of publishing story. Unsurprising, given how good it is, but there’s still an element of doubt with anything regarding publishing! Well, Murphy happened quite by accident. I’ve already mentioned the discarded scouse-gangster novel, which contained an element of what makes up Dead Gone – the psychology angle, someone killing people based on real psychological experiments etc. When I started over, I kept the psychology bit, and disregarded everything else. I remember I was re-reading one of my favourite books – The 50/50 Killer by Steve Mosby – and thinking I wanted to write something more like that. So, I started with the woman on the night out, getting in the taxi, and disappearing. Then, I was going to concentrate on her partner, but realised writing those ‘ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ novels were extremely difficult to write! I decided I needed a police point of view, as they could do things ordinary people couldn’t really. My uncle is an ex-copper, so I used him as a basis. He shares his physical size, nickname, some of his qualities, but has none of the baggage Murphy does. Once I started writing about Murphy, I just found he was more interesting to me. Murphy quickly usurped the boyfriend character and became the star. However, back then, his sidekick was a bloke called Nick Ayris. Going back to that phone conversation with Agent Phil, he casually mentioned that usually it’s a male/female partnership, and that there was nothing Italian in the book. Which was surprising to him, given I was half-Italian. Nick Ayris became Laura Rossi and that’s why agents are important! Rossi is by far my favourite character to write now. I can get all these little things about my Italian family in there – my nan asking me if I’m hungry as soon as I’d walked through the door, before saying hello, my dad swearing in Italian, the quick-temper, etc. I did envisage a series if it got picked up, but I’d still change things. I probably wouldn’t have Murphy having quite such a lot of baggage to carry, although that worked (hopefully) eventually. That’s about it though. There’s no plan as such, but I have ideas for about seven or eight books total. I’m writing number four now, so I’m halfway through! And those ideas will probably change. You and Eddie Flynn … always a series as well? Steve – Have to say I love Rossi; the Italian swearing! She is such a great character. Ahm, yeah, I had an idea for the character first. A con artist who became a lawyer, because I wanted to explore the overlap in those professions and how a trial works – the art of cross examination and how that really is the art of persuasion, misdirection and manipulation. Before the book got picked up I had an idea for four or five, and I really wanted to start writing them but I knew The Defence had to be the first one. If that book hadn’t been published I wouldn’t be writing about that character because the events in The Defence cause Eddie to fall back into his old hustler ways. No other storyline could’ve achieved that in the same way. Right now I’m writing the third book. I love series characters, so it felt natural to try and start my own. Although, I’ve been hit with several decent ideas for standalone books lately. I don’t know if I’ll write them. Maybe down the line. Do you ever think of trying a standalone? And how do you go about writing? Plotter, pantser, when and how do you write? Luca – Can’t wait to read more Eddie. I’ve got the beginning of a standalone in a word doc on my computer. It’s pretty much plotted out as well, but I’m happy writing the series for now. I’m a big fan of series characters as well, so I’m happy at the moment. I’m a little of both. I plot a little, then just write for a while, before plotting a little more. Usually, this leads to me rewriting half a book, four weeks before a deadline though! I start with a small idea. Then, I need some sort of theme – with the new one, Bloodstream, it’s about love and media – and I can just go from there. With my books, there’s always an investigation that starts you off, which usually involves a body or the lack of one, so it’s just a battle against making that too samey/cliche and just writing. Then rewriting. Then throwing things at the wall and hoping inspiration hits at some point! Do you plan much? And the same question about standalones to you… would you consider writing something set in your own country? Steve – That’s interesting that you start off with a theme. I know Ian Rankin does something similar so you’re in good company. I think doing it that way, with a theme in mind, really helps you focus on what you want to achieve with the book. I’m reading Bloodstream at the moment, and loving it. The whole celebrity thing is well done, and my wife zipped through the book in a day or so. I tend not to have a theme, and one or two kind of emerge. I don’t plot or plan anything. I write line by line, and then I go back and rewrite the beginning until I have it nailed. Once I’ve got a decent 50 pages or so, I’m off and I don’t tend to look back until I’m almost at the end. Then I stop. Go back and redraft from the beginning before I write the end. It’s a weird process. I tend to have a vague idea, and go from there. The second book, The Plea, touches on white collar crime like money laundering and how it’s done in the digital age, and there’s a locked room mystery done with CCTV. (A word of advice to new writers. NEVER do a locked room mystery, not until you are well down the line with at least a couple of books under your belt. And then plan it all out from the beginning.) Standalones are very appealing when you’re writing a series, but also scary. I think you have to time it right. That last thing you want to do is release a standalone when everyone is waiting for the next book in the series. It never quite has the same impact. I don’t know if I’d write something set in Northern Ireland. I won’t rule it out, but the ideas for standalones that are kicking around in my head are set in the US. Although, I did have one idea for a Northern Ireland story, but I sort of think that would work much better on TV than in a book. Luca – I’ll take the company of Ian Rankin. I saved a penalty of his, in a crime writers’ football match. I don’t mention it very often. Locked room mystery, ouch. That’s not something I have planned to do any time soon! Interesting that Northern Ireland hasn’t really featured much in your planning. When I started out, I couldn’t imagine setting my books anywhere other than Liverpool. I can’t really imagine writing about anywhere else, even with the help of Google Maps. You didn’t just choose a different city, but an entirely different country. How does that work and is it solely so you can pass of US holidays as expenses? Steve – A US holiday would be very nice. It’s not so much of a leap really. I grew up watching US TV shows and reading books set in the US, so the language, the rhythms, the pace and the locations, all seem very real to me. Plus, New York fits with the pace and the style of story I wanted to write. And by setting it in New York I can cheat. If I’d set it somewhere in North Carolina, I’d have to take a fair bit of time to describe the place. Whereas, as soon I say New York, every single person reading the book immediately creates their own mental image without me having to help them too much. If I’d set the book in Belfast it just wouldn’t have worked. Plus, look at all the writers coming out of Northern Ireland, like Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan, Claire MacGowan. I just couldn’t compete with that lot. How important is setting to you? A few of the places and buildings in The Defence are fictional, any fictional settings or are they all meticulously researched? And what does Liverpool add to the series, for you? Luca – Stuart Neville, now there’s a writer. When I grow up, I want to be as good as him. Nothing really fictional in my book. Everything exists, with a couple of minor changes here and there, so no one sues me. There’s a house in the first book which plays a major role in the ending and that’s slightly invented. The road it’s on exists, but the house itself is a creation. My police characters work from the real offices in the city centre, they live in real locations (again with some alterations), and I hope daily that it doesn’t get me into trouble! Liverpool to me just feels natural. It’s a setting not really utilised in crime fiction, so I have that going for me, as it’s somewhere new for readers to discover. It’s big enough, that I have many locations within it to utilise. Plus, there are so many different characters in Liverpool, that I can bring in realism to what is an unrealistic topic. We last had a serial killer in Liverpool back in the 1800s (we’ve exported a couple since then, but never had any on the streets from what I know), which means my serial killer books don’t really conform to the reality of the city. Hopefully, with the characters, topics, and locations, I can make it a little more realistic. What’s the one thing you want to achieve in your writing career … awards, events, etc.? Steve – You should set your books in Northern Ireland, we’ve had more than our fair share of serial killers. And I totally agree about Stuart – phenomenal talent. The one thing I want to achieve? I don’t know if I could narrow it down to just one thing. It’s weird, when you’re struggling to be published you just want to have that moment of seeing your book on a shelf. When you’ve achieved that, then you want somebody to actually buy the bloody book, take it home, read it and enjoy it. Then you want lots of people to do that. Ideally, enough to get you onto the bestseller list – so I think your goals change throughout your career. I’m sure there are well known bestselling writers, who want higher sales, and better chart positions every year. For me, I have two goals. One is to be able to sell enough books, and make enough money that I could be financially stable and support my family through my writing. That is the big one for me. Second goal, to write a better book than the last one, year on year. Awards are totally in the lap of the Gods. You do your best and if someone wants to give you an award, well that’s lovely. But there are plenty of amazing crime novels that don’t win awards but stay in print and become classics. The other part of this writing game is getting to meet so many other great writers. There are still a few legends on my list of people that I want to meet – Stephen King for one. What about you – career goals? Luca – Similar to you, I just want to write a better book than the last one. Security would be up there as well. I’d love to have a novel in hardback, as that’s something I always equate with quality (for some unknown reason). Awards – I’d like them and I hate people who have them (jokes!), but not a top priority. I’ll be standing next to you when you meet Stephen King. My literary hero. Which neatly leads me into a conclusion to this conversation. What’s your favourite book? Mine is by the aforementioned – and soon to be Steve and Luca’s best mate – Stephen King, and is The Stand. Steve – If we meet Stephen King I’m going ask him to take a photograph of you and me. Just for the Craic. (“Excuse me, Mr King. Could we get a photo?” “Why sure,” says Stephen King.) I’m joking of course. I’d be a complete gibbering mess meeting somebody like him. That would be a cool day, and another reason to envy Stuart who has indeed met the man. Favourite book? I haven’t read it in years, but The Lord of The Rings used to be my favourite book. I used to read it every Christmas, for about ten years. Now I think I’d have to go with Red Dragon, or The Firm. If you’d asked me last week I would’ve said Every Dead Thing by John Connolly or The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly. My favourites change all the time. And as a final bit, best bit of writing advice you can give to a new writer? Luca – Ha! We must do that. Hopefully in the future we’ll get the chance. I’m awful with advice, but here’s the best I can do … finish. Whatever you’re writing, just finish it. That’s the hardest part of writing, I think. Finishing the bloody thing. Having a complete story in front of you makes things much easier. Then, you can get to the fun part. Rewriting. Your advice? Steve – Read and write. Read the best books you can find and aspire to get close to that level. And write as much as you can every single day. It’s the only way to improve. More about Steve Cavanagh:Steve was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer. He is married with two young children. The Defence, has been chosen as one of Amazon’s 2015 Rising Stars programme. The Defence was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards for Best Ending and Most Recommended Book. Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring lawyer and former con artist, Eddie Flynn. The Defence is his first novel. Find out more at www.stevecavanagh.com or follow Steve on Twitter @SSCav More about Luca Veste:Luca is a writer of Scouse and Italian heritage, author of the Murphy & Rossi series. His latest book is called Bloodstream. He is also the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’. He is a former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again). He can be found at www.lucaveste.com and on twitter @LucaVeste.
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How to write themes in novels

If characters form the heart of a novel, the plot its musculoskeletal system, then the theme is a book’s soul. These might be personal or social issues, like emotional heartbreak or betrayal, or racial hatred or injustice, which sound all the way through the novel. What Is A Theme? These themes are not likely to be prominent. Lectures are to be avoided: these are no good. But if a book reverberates in the memory long after it’s been put down, rather like the way a trumpet note sustains itself after the instrument has left the lips, then that’s because of the book’s theme. A book with a theme is a book with soul. Write A Memorable Book It’s that easy. Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? The appalling shock of racial prejudice in the old American South, the burning sense of justice, the desire to put things right. That’s why the book sold. That’s why readers still remember it today, even if it was a decade or three since they read it. Perhaps you’ve read Pride & Prejudice. Its plot and lead characters, Lizzy and Darcy, are vivid, memorable, but what about the title? Does that just possibly suggest to you that Jane Austen had a certain theme in mind when she wrote it? (Its first working title, also, was First Impressions.) You can write a bestseller without having a theme, but you can’t write a good book without one. You certainly can’t write a book that lasts. How To Find The Theme Of Your Book You can’t just plug a theme into a book. Other things can be planned, crafted and worked at. But if you approach your theme front ways on, it’ll sound crass and didactic, so what do you do? Well, the most important thing is to write well. If your stories, characters and prose are superbly knitted together, you’ll start to see themes forming like a mist rising from a field at dusk. It just happens. (That may sound rather fluid, we know, though it’s true for all that.) Secondly, it’s fine to have some ideas in mind as you write. They should stay towards the back of your mind, though. Stories must be told through character and action, and it’s these things which should occupy your conscious attention. But if those things are at the back of your mind, then they’ll wriggle their way into your work. Trust us on this, too, that you’ll often enough be surprised by themes. Things will pop up in your work that you never intended to put there. Welcome all such strangers. Great authors always do. Last, as you revise your text, you can shape, nudge, tweak things, so that those themes become a little more prominent. Subtlety is the hallmark. And they don’t have to know that they’re reading a book with soul, intelligence, etc. You needn’t lecture or tell anyone anything. If the soul is there, the reader will find it, whether they know it or not.
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Dealing with writer’s block

Guest author and blogger Jane Struthers is the author of over twenty non-fiction books on a range of subjects, including Red Sky at Night: The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom and Beside the Seaside: A Celebration of the Place We Like To Be. She lives in a rural corner of East Sussex. You know how it is. You’ve spent ages thinking about what you’re going to write, anticipating it, feeling frustrated because other things are getting in the way of it. Finally, you clear a couple of hours from your busy schedule, switch on your computer or get out your pen and paper and … nothing. The words won’t come, or they seem laughably trite or clichéd or flaccid. You’re gripped by the urgent need to wash the kitchen floor, track down a sock that’s been missing for the past five years or surf a favourite website. Hey, maybe you could call that research. Or maybe you could call it procrastination. Or writer’s block. It’s an insidious business because the more you allow it to happen, the more often it will happen. So how do you stop it? Here are my tips. 9 Tips To Conquer Writers’ Block 1. As Mark Twain so famously said (and as other writers have echoed since), writing is all about application: the application of the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Don’t give in to those internal urgings to tidy up, sow some lettuce seeds or do anything else that will curtail the agony of sitting there and not writing. You’ll never make any progress if you don’t get those words down. Sit it out! 2. If you find that you’ve spent two hours at your desk but most of that time has involved writing emails or surfing the web, then the only answer is to switch off your Internet connection at its source before you start work. If you don’t, you’ll be drawn to the icon of your chosen browser sooner or later. Don’t give yourself that temptation. 3. If the words really won’t come, write something else instead. Write about how you’re feeling. Write a letter to your dog. It doesn’t really matter what you write, as long as you write something. (But don’t write anything self-defeating, such as telling yourself how pathetic you are. That won’t help.) Write for ten minutes and stop. Switch to your current project and start writing that. Don’t think about it. Just do it. 4. Writing is an untidy business, but published books rarely reflect that. If they’ve been edited and produced in a professional manner, the prose is seamless. It flows in a way that may make you tear your hair on a bad day. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by this. The raw manuscript of your favourite novel was probably just as messy as yours is right now. That’s OK. No one is going to see it. You aren’t completing an exam paper. 5. If you want every sentence to be perfect as soon as you’ve written it, or you fret that your grasp of apostrophes isn’t all it could be, you will probably agonize over every word so much that the flow will soon dry up. Right now, you need to get the words down. The editing stage can come later. And if there really is room for improvement, maybe you could start teaching yourself grammar, spelling and syntax in your spare time. 6. If you aren’t happy about a word or a sentencewhen you write it, highlight it so you can come back to it later and keep the flow going in the meantime. If you use Microsoft Word, get into the habit of using Track Changes. This allows you to insert a comment into your text at the relevant point, so you can flag whatever is necessary. Track Changes also remembers your editing in case you have second thoughts about it and want to revert to your original text. 7. Set yourself an achievable goal. If you’ve only got half an hour of writing time, there’s no point in telling yourself you’re going to write 1000 words. It’s unlikely to happen, which will be discouraging. If you are really struggling, aim to write a single paragraph. Then, if you’ve got time, write the next one. 8. Some writers like to stop work when they reach the end of a chapter. Others always stop mid-chapter or even mid-sentence, so they can plunge straight back into what they were writing because they’re excited about what happens next. 9. Ideally, try to write at the same time each day. This makes it part of your daily routine, so it becomes a habit. If you show up every day for the muse, the muse is more likely to show up for you.
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How to format your ebook

We want all our writers to have access to readers and we’re not snobby about self-publication. Self-publishing is easier now than it’s ever been, but there are some mysteries involved, the thought of which can put some people off. So we’ve cherry-picked the finest talent to assist in your journey. Today, we have guest blogger Ben Bryant to tell you how to format your Word document so as to simplify the digital conversion process. I have worked with Harry Bingham on his past few novels, formatting them into ebooks, specifically the two most common file types, namely Kindle’s mobi and ePub, which is the file type widely accepted by most other ebook distributors, including Apple. He has asked me for some tips to help other writers publish in ebook formats. The following advice is basically a list of ‘good practice’ whether it be preparing a Word document for sending to a conversion service or self-formatting a Word document for direct upload to an ebook store’s automated conversion system. Firstly, simplicity is key. The beauty of an ebook file is that the same file can be read on hundreds of different devices from desktop computers to tablets and mobile phones. Device manufacturer and operating system make no difference, the file can be read on all. Although the file can be read, it won’t always display as intended, particularly if the formatting is complex and you are using an older device. Though newer e-reader devices or apps can deal with complex formatting, such as multiple column layouts and tables, there are hundreds of thousands of older devices still in use. You need to ensure that your book reads as intended on all devices so avoid complex layouts such as multiple columns on each page, text wrapping images, text boxes and drop-caps. This next point may sound ridiculous to some people, but you will be surprised how often I come across it. Do not use the space-bar or the tab key to centre text. Multiple space-bar keystrokes and tabs are ignored by e-reader devices, so you will find your text back on the left. Instead just use the ‘centre text’ button on Word’s Home tab. There are at least three common ways to create indents in a Word document, however only one is understood by e-reader devices. Do not use multiple space-bar keystrokes to create indents, for the reasons mentioned above. Likewise, the use of the tab key is also ignored by e-reader devices. The correct way to create indentions is to set the indentation using paragraph styles. Just expand the paragraph options on Word’s Home tab and select the indent type and size you require. I recommend indents of less than 1cm as e-reader screens can be quite small and a 1cm indent can look excessive. You can use multiple paragraph returns to space out paragraphs but ensure that you use a page-break at the end of each chapter. This ensures that your next chapter will start at the top of a new page. You should not add headers or page numbers. Every e-reader device will automatically create headers based on the book title and/or author name. Page numbers are generated by the e-reader device itself. Note also that your book will vary in number of pages depending on the screen size of the device and the user’s font size settings. It is therefore unwise to refer to specific page numbers within the body text of your manuscript. Following on from my previous point regarding pages, footnotes do not work in ebooks, as you cannot be sure where the page break will fall. Instead you can use endnotes, either at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book. There is no problem including images in an ebook, however there is a significant issue that needs to be considered when selling through Amazon, namely delivery fees. Unlike other ebook sellers Amazon charges you, the author/publisher, a delivery fee every time your book is purchased and downloaded. This fee is based on file size. The more images you use, the larger the file will be and the higher the delivery charge. The issue is further complicated by Amazon’s royalty structure where if you select the 30% royalty option, they waive the fee. You can factor the delivery fee into your ebook’s list price but if it is a large file and you wish to sell it cheaply this may not be the best solution. You will need to weigh up which royalty option works out best for you, based on the price you wish to charge for your ebook and its file size. It sounds a little complicated but more info can be found here. Here is a short list of body text settings that result in good ebook conversions: Use a standard font such as Times New Roman, Georgia or Arial.Use a point size of 10, 11 or 12 for the main body text.Use black text.Avoid line spacing greater than 1.5.Use standard margins.Do not use leading or kerning as these will be ignoredIf you wish to highlight particular words or sentences, use only basic formatting tools such as bold, italic and caps. The above tips cover the essentials when preparing your work for ebook formats. All ebook sellers will have their own list of requirements for the files you submit to them and many still will not accept Word documents for automatic conversion. Some that do, such as Smashwords, have further stipulations such as limitations on font colours, restrictions on indentation options and the requirement to credit them as publishers. A quick Google search should provide you all the info you need on your retailer of choice. Unfortunately creating an ebook from a Word document can still be a bit hit-or-miss as the process is an automated one. This is why many people employ people like me to create their books using html code. If you have any questions about this article or have other ebook-related queries, you can comment below or reach me via my website or email address below. I hope this short guide comes in useful. All the best with your literary ventures. Ben no longer formats ebooks for clients, but you can find paid services such as Word-2-kindle’s service, just by Googling around. Search for “ebook formatting services” and take your pick. Be sure to go for a service that allows for no-added-cost revisions. A regular novel should cost an absolute maximum of $100.
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US literary agents for memoir, true story, and autobiographies

Breaking into the book market can be difficult, but luckily for you, we have all the advice you need to find the right agent for your book. There are plenty of memoir-loving agents but finalising your agent shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.     We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles.   After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s some names to get you started:  Margaret Bail Sonali Chanchani Dawn Hardy Edward Hibbert Jody Kahn  Ed Maxwell  Neil Olson Latoya C Smith Howard Yoon Need more information? We break everything down in our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors! The Memoir Market The market for memoirs is easy, if you’re a celebrity that is. If you find that you’re not a celebrity, then things can prove a little harder.  You will need to show that you have been part of something quite remarkable. Not my-friends-think-it’s-amazing remarkable, but the kind of remarkable that will captivate a perfect stranger, like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.   The ability to transform those remarkable experience into excellent prose is another must. To hook an agent, you need to be able to bring to life the things you’ve seen and done. Masterpieces like The Hare With Amber Eyes and Empire Antartica are also great examples.  Gripping stories like these are rarer than you’d think.  
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How To Make The Most Of The Festival Of Writing

Guest author and blogger Mari Griffith is a bestselling author of historical fiction. For fans of Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, Mari’s debut novel Root of the Tudor Rose has been internationally acclaimed. Read her top tips on making the most of our annual Festival of Writing. I’d kept trying various writers’ advisory groups, but nothing really opened any windows of understanding for me. I had a knowledge of writing after thirty eclectic years in broadcasting, churning out scripts for documentaries, concerts, children’s programmes, the Schools Broadcasting service, even on-air programme promotions. But a novel? That was something very different. Then I came across some publicity for a writers’ weekend conference in York. Coming to my very first Festival of Writing, I found myself among like-minded people there for the same three reasons – to hone craft, to meet other writers and to relish the whole experience. Motivating workshops and one-to-ones provided insights I needed to get me into good habits. I saw the sense of crafting my novel, of getting to know my characters. I learned about scene setting, plot development, pace, character arcs, convincing dialogue, evocative prose … suddenly, there was so much to think about. My 2B pencil was working overtime! Home again, I realised the need to keep up the momentum. I junked my Prologue and twenty thousand words of my current draft and promptly enrolled on the Writers’ Workshop online course with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. I never regretted it. They were unfailingly focussed, practical and pleasant in their teaching. Emma guided my footsteps as a writer of historical fiction and Debi offered flashes of pure inspiration. I’ll always be grateful for her thoughts on ‘psychic distance’! My association with the Writers’ Workshop has been enormously beneficial. It has given me confidence in my work and the ability to be my own best critic. That’s important for a writer because it means that your book will be as good as you can possibly make it before you show it to anyone else. Anything that can be enhanced thereafter by editors or book doctors becomes a valuable bonus. Chances are that your work will eventually be good enough to publish, if you can find an agent – and you might manage to do that in York, too. It has been known! Ultimately, everything depends on you, what you make of this golden opportunity. Having thought long and hard about it, I’ve drawn on my own experience to come up with six bullet points to help you make the best possible use of everything the Festival of Writing offers: Pick the workshops that best suit your writing to find out how you can improve and market it.Make notes: then write them up when you get home. Don’t trust to memory, otherwise you’ll never remember all the stuff you’re going to learn.Target your Agents and Book Doctors with care: they tend to specialise. Someone who’s looking for Crime Fiction isn’t likely to help you much with quirky chick-lit.Arm yourself with business cards, which give your basic contact details – you’ll be amazed how many you dish out.Don’t be pushy – not everyone wants your opinion on Kafka.And don’t be shy, either. If you spot a spare seat at the breakfast table next to a bunch of Book Doctors, just ask politely if you can join them. They’ll make room for you. Honestly! These days, I’m a veteran delegate at the Festival. I keep coming back because there’s always something new to learn. It’s fun, too, and that’s not just the craic in the bar of an evening. What’s also special is that since delegates, agents, book doctors and workshop leaders are all on campus for the whole weekend, you’re likely to enjoy useful conversations over lunch, while browsing in the book shop or even in the queue for the loo. I once shared a taxi from York station with Julie Cohen and had a fascinating chat. Another time, I chose Andrew Wille as my book doctor and he remains an encouraging friend to this day. Now I’ve had two books published and my third is a work in progress. I’m delighted to say that I know how it feels to have written a bestselling book (marvellous, in case you were wondering!), and I have the satisfaction of knowing that people do read and enjoy what I write. That’s very special. And the downside of all this? Well, there isn’t one. True, it’s not a cheap weekend, but it’s probably a lot cheaper than the membership fee at the local golf club. And you need to weigh the cost against the result – which is invaluable.
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US literary agents for erotica

Are you looking for a US agent that represents erotica? Then look no further. We have all the information right here, at your fingertips. Oh, and we’ll also introduce a few agents too. There are plenty of ways to figure out which agents represent your genre but finalising your shortlist can be a painstakingly long, dull task. Unless you’re using AgentMatch, that is.    We’ve done all the hard work for you: scoured the four corners of the web for every interview, interesting fact, and noteworthy quote, it’s all there. So, why not take out our 7-day free trial to get complete access to all the US literary agent profiles. After selecting your country (we advise that US based authors query US based agents), genre or non-fiction subject, you’ll receive a personalised list of suitable agent profiles. Save your search results and work through them one by one, at your own pace. Here’s a few names to get you started: Steven Axelrod  Lucienne Diver  Danielle Egan-Miller Ethan Ellenberg  Sarah Megibow  Lori Perkins  Not too long ago finding an agent for erotic fiction was close to impossible. Agents were snobby. They were worried that erotic manuscripts were not saleable and feared that the erotica genre simply wouldn’t pay.  Then came E.L. James. After her huge success with the Fifty Shades of Grey series, agents and publishers have learnt the value of books in this genre. Even quite highbrow agencies are now open to submissions of erotic fiction.  So, if you’re thinking about querying agents, then you need to read our guide to finding a literary agent – it’s invaluable for all querying authors!  Best of luck! 
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Social media for writers

Guest author and blogger Laurence O’Bryan is a novelist with HarperCollins (more) but also a pioneer in the field of using social media for book promotion. His BooksGoSocial site offers a range of promotional tools to help (primarily) self-published books get noticed. Laurence also runs courses in how to make the most of social media. Social media can be viewed as a series of puzzles. When, as a writer, you first start on social media it seems that everyone knows what you don’t. The mysteries of social media are revealed slowly as you browse and experiment and learn. This post will explore some important pieces of the social media puzzle, of relevance whether you’re new to social media or an old hand. What Are The Goals Of Social Media Participation? The first puzzle I’d like to explore is what are reasonable goals for social media participation? The reason this comes first, for me, is because how you answer this will affect every other social media action that you take. If your goal is simply to increase sales of your books, then there will be a series of steps you need to take to build relationships with people who might be interested in reading or them. This would, however, be a very restrictive and stunted use of social media. It would be like installing a telephone in your offices and only using it for sales calls. Every aspect of your work can be impacted positively by social media, if you let it. Research, industry knowledge, motivation and planning can all be helped by social media tools, which allow you to connect with people, listen and communicate. You can also use social media as a creative tool as well as for all the above. It allows you to express whatever you want; your love of Tolkien or photography or Proust or Joyce or whatever. But you can use social media to build relationships too. Real relationships. Is Social Media A Dog Chasing Its Own Tail, A Self-reinforcing Bubble, Or Is It Something That Will Last? There has been a steady drum beat in the media over the past few years of Luddite criticism of social media. Some commentators claim that it is all a waste of time, that social media is banal and trivial and that it will all pass. My personal view is that social media is here to stay and that it forces cooperation and openness. To be otherwise on social media would lead to being flamed or being shunned. Cooperation and openness lead to increased learning, as we take on board new ideas. I don’t think every Tweet or post is a symbol of progress, but there are enough positive ones, I believe, to make it obvious that social media is of benefit to humanity, overall, as a communication tool. I do think there is a danger of over hyping social media, the way radio was over hyped in the 1920’s, with a large number of radio companies coming to Wall Street to sell shares. But because many of those radio stations went bankrupt it doesn’t mean that radio was a medium set to die. Radio was hugely important in the Second World War and since too. Rock & roll and the popular music revolutions of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are just some of the things radio enabled. I believe social media will have a similarly important role in the decades to come for writers. We are now able to reach readers without the help of a publisher or a large inheritance. Could Social Media Be An Agent Of Change In Our Culture? Social media could be as much an instrument of change as radio or TV was, influencing politics, popular culture and comedy to name but a few areas. Social media, like radio and TV, is a means of mass communication. And social media is changing fast. Facebook’s shares go down again, then up again, then down again. Google+ changes its look and feel, again. Twitter is used to assess the political mood and the likelihood of a stock market crash. Soon it will be used to predict riots and stock market rallies. The impact on writers, forcing a more open and accessible personal style, is likely to have a long term effect on what writers create and how they create. And we are still at the beginning of this revolution. Try searching for #socialmedia on Twitter and you will be assaulted by wave after wave of developments in social media. Every minute. No! Every second. But where will all this lead us? I see three clear trends, each of which could have an impact on writers: The visual web. Mobile video stream, Microsoft’s HoloLens 3d headset and local YouTube feeds may allow us to travel almost anywhere and experience everything as ultimate-voyeurs. Expect artistic photojournalism, environments that change as we look at them, permanent people tracking, your visual life on a site, celebrity holograms at your local book store and rebranding sites that will let you see how you might appear with a few nicks and tucks when you win that big publishing deal. Screens may surround us and allow us instant access to the thoughts and recommendations of other people, and even to see what they are seeing, to read what they are reading. We may eventually be able to piggy back onto other people’s lives through visceral monitoring, heart, sweat, body chemicals, leading to the manipulation of our own senses, but all that is far off. Whether we get there is another thing, completely. The auto posting trend. Expect your phone to auto post your location to your life-blog and your audio feed to text tweets to Twitter. Going beyond that we may be tracked by location posting sites for curfew enforcement, remote working and spouse spying applications. Auto posts already make up a big percentage of the posts you see. That includes re-posts and posts simply made at a previous time. The question seems to be, not whether you should auto-post an update on what you are reading/researching, but why you think your followers will be interested in learning that? Perhaps we will have training courses and later, degree course in “deciding what to post” and “deciding what to listen to and who to follow”. The digital chasm. The erosion of the middle class will lead to a divide between those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pursue writing as a career and those who are not. Fortunately, writing well is not something you can easily outsource to the 3rd world. It requires a cultural dexterity, which can take decades to learn. Instant security services, auto-taser fencing and within-a-minute by drone-extraction from urban locations may all be our future. Security zones may extend to elite stores, clubs and hotels, all invisible to the rest of humanity by their anonymous exteriors. How Did We Survive Before Social Media (BSM)? If my memory serves me we did just fine BSM. Sure, we had to wait to hear gossip, and read newspapers or magazines to find out what was happening around us, but we didn’t know what we were missing. The internet was initially about newspapers and selling or buying things and searching and we used it less (it was slow), and BSM we read more and spent more time watching TV, but I don’t think we were any healthier or wiser as a whole. BSM we just didn’t know stuff. I can’t tell you whether it’s that important in the big scheme of things that we have intimate knowledge of each other’s lives, but I believe this social media trend is unstoppable now. It’s a genii that’s out of its bottle. And I don’t know what spell will make it go back in again, but it will have to be a powerful one. The only thing I expect, which could impact our use of social media is disruption to our electricity supply. And that would lead to a lot of deaths in our electric driven world. We will, I believe, be doing social media differently in the future, but I don’t think we are going back to the days BSM. And yes, much of the above may not happen before 2020. So if you want to write about the near future, consider incorporating some of the above elements. In any case it will be your ability to tell a good story that will make or break what you write. Luck still plays an essential role in all successful writing, but you do know what they say about luck; it’s better to make your own. For me these are four of the biggest puzzles about social media. You may have other ones you think are more important. I hope you will consider sharing those with us below. Please share if you have a puzzle. For me this is one of the most intriguing aspects of social media. How it is developing. 3 Key Takeaways Some of the puzzling aspects of social media: Do you know what your goals are?Are you taking full advantage of the opportunities that social media is providing or are you just using it to help you sell books? Is social media chasing its own tail?Social media has real benefits. This is not just my opinion. Sure, human connections made on social media are not as strong as the connections we have with people in our local area, but you can build useful relationships with people all over the world with social media in a way that was impossible before. Is it an agent of change?Only time will tell whether the changes in our societies as a result of social media are long lasting or if we will eventually turn away from technology. I strongly suspect that technology will develop further and further. It may plateau at some stage and we may need to change how we do things, such as the annual obsolescence of many devices, but software and the internet are changing too fast and more and more people are finding innovative ways to use the web and getting employed in it, so I don’t think this wave of change is over yet. Laurence O’Bryan is founder of BooksGoSocial.com.
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