Books Read in 2011

Tessa's books-read-2011 book montage

Clockwork Angel
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer

Books Read in 2011 »

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dystopia: The New Utopia

There has been a lot of discussion about trends in the writing market recently. It seems that one can't really jump right into the current trend, because when one finally finishes the manuscript, agents/publishers are no longer accepting trend novels because the market is "filling up".

The YA trend has been vampires since Hurricane Twilight sent teenage girls racing to the bookstores. Everybody wanted to catch the gust and wrote vampire YA (books that I still greedily seek out). There is now an overflow of unpublished manuscripts and agents are rejecting all queries that have the word "vampire" in them.

The current and near-future trend seems to be YA Dystopia. I actually had to look up that word (anti-utopia), and I get it; I like watching movies where the world is inside-out after some catastrophe, and I should be able to enjoy such books as well. Of course, a dash of paranormal wouldn't ruin it for me.

When I read about the dystopia trend, I immediately thought that maybe I should try to write one, but by the time I'd get it done, everyone and their cousin will have sent out query letters and agents will be rejecting all queries containing the word "dystopia".

One might say that unpublished writers live in a dystopian world and are desperately trying to reach utopia. I think that the only chance writers have to ride the wave of trends is by either having manuscripts ready before the tide hits to be able to ship them out immediately when their genre is prophesied to be the next big thing, or to be abnormally fast at creating manuscripts, and risking the manuscript being rushed.

If you want to break into the market, you'll have to write what sells; and what sells is the current and next trend. Kristin Nelson recently talked about how most queries she's receiving today are about ghosts telling their stories, psychics solving a mystery, vampires (still, as she puts it), and people seeing things in dreams that lead them on an adventure. Apparently writers are expected to think outside the box and try to invent the next hype, but at the same time it is difficult to sell the manuscript because it involves a great risk to publishers.

I have tried to be innovative in my manuscript and created paranormal beings that I haven't seen before. Now the big, hairy and nasty question is: are they too innovative for the publishers to take the risk?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Literary Agent Resources

The tough, rough, and ever so frightening agents.

I have finished reading the manuscript and make the minor corrections -- finally. I realize that I'll have to read the first 40 pages again, just to see if the deletion of the first chapter and minor changes to the second chapter has gone smoothly. I don't want to miss a significant detail from the deleted first chapter.

What's next? After I've read those 40 pages, I will personalize query letters to each agent on my list. I currently have 22 agents listed. I know that there are loads more, and I will look for them after I have sent out to those 22. These are also only agents who accept e-queries. I know that e-queries are easier to discard than paper queries, but I still think e-queries are the easier choice.

--> Compile a list of desirable agents.

I wonder if it's better to send directly to the agents, or to their assistants. Will the agents be quicker to discard a query? I know that it was an assistant to fished out Stephenie Meyer's query letter, so perhaps they are the better choice. Some seem to have assistants while others don't. Regardless, I'll have to choose an agent within the agency, one that represents my genre.

--> Decide whom to query within the agency.

The agencies only allow people to query one agent, so querying all won't work. Janet Reid, however, suggests querying the others if the first one rejects. She says that if you don't hear back from the agents within 30 days, one should re-query. She also says that one shouldn't assume that silence = no, even if it's written on the agency's query page.

--> Decide a strategy for querying.

I have downloaded Sonar, a little program that'll keep track of my queries. I haven't tested it yet, but it looks neat and useful.

--> Keep track of when you send out the queries.

I have found useful sites to find agents. There's Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace, and Agent Query. I've briefly looked through them and listed some agents. I'll take a better look at them later. Then, of course, there's Google and links on various blogs. I also always check the acknowledgements in the books I read to see who represents the author.

Then I research the agent a little; see what books he/she has had published in your genre, and which of those books were a hit. I read that advice a long time ago, and I always check published books on the agency pages. I also run a search through Google with the agent/agency name + scam, to see if there's any negative discussion about the agent/agency. This can be done if the agent requests a partial or full, but I like to do it beforehand.

--> Research your agent; see what books he/she's had published and check for scams.

Task for the day: Read the first 40 pages.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stumped by the Story Question

Which Way?

Randy answered my question about placing the story question in the novel. My question was:

I followed the Writing Fiction for Dummies book to the letter after I wrote my novel, all except the part about a scene list. I thought it would take too much effort. I realized yesterday that I need to shift the scenes around, and I so regret not writing that list.

I’m going mad with trying to figure out how it all connects if I move two of my scenes earlier (so that the REAL story question of the book is in the first quarter, and not closer to the middle). There’s ton of things happening in the first 1/3 to keep the reader occupied, and I’ve been dropping clues left and right, all carefully concealed to the best of my ability.

The real story question is basically if the kids should choose between good or evil, but up until then the reader will have thought that the story question is how to get home, since that’s what the kids have been doing up until about 1/3 of the story.

How to get home is the ultimate goal, and the story question of the whole trilogy (this is book one).

How important is it to have the true story question of the book in the first quarter as opposed to nearer to 1/3 of the book?

Thanks in advance. I’ll appreciate help with this.

He gave me a very long, elaborate answer with examples of the five pillars of fiction; Storyworld, Characters, Plot, Theme, and Style.

Basically he said that if the story is plot-driven, as mine is, the story question should be clear very early in the manuscript. This had me sighing a little, but then I figured that I'm introducing a whole new world, and I felt that I couldn't go right into the story question (good or evil) until after I'd done some fair introduction. One of Randy's readers, Timothy R. Greene, commented and said that he likes to push the story question back for as long as he can. He thinks that it makes the story more of a mystery and keeps the reader interested.

I checked my manuscript and the story question is literally spelled out on page 112 of a 254 paged story. That's more than 1/3'd way through; it's closer to the middle. I honestly don't think that moving it forward will improve the story, since the ultimate goal is to get home and that's clearly obvious in the first 30 pages, but in order to get home they have to choose a path. They only get that information after having traveled the land, seen the evil race, and discovered and trained their different abilities. I tried moving the question closer to the beginning, but it just didn't work and didn't feel right, so I think I'm going to listen to my gut on this one.

I think that if I were to try again, I'd have to rewrite the whole thing from start. I'll have that as a backup plan if I only get rejections from both agents and publishers.

Task for the day: Read two chapters and fix in the document.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When to Query


I was reading old blog posts from agents and came across an old post by Janet Reid. It has to be the most helpful post on how to keep on querying. I feel all perky and excited now, ready to take 'em on!

Ok, so I haven't actually sent out the query letters yet, but I'm going Wednesday. I chose Wednesday for a strategic reason. After an hour of searching, I finally found theGatekeeper blog again. It basically says that an agent's inbox fills with queries over the weekend and on Monday they have loads to sort through. On Fridays they're too occupied with Friday-glee, that they're more likely to reject. The blog advises middle of the week. There are also lots of helpful advices in this post.

The Gatekeeper's The Middle Way: A new method of timing your queries suggests making a list of most desirable agents, medium ones, and the ones who just wound up on the paper. She also suggests to query first the medium desirable ones and see if you get any feedbacks. If you get only rejections or a few personalized feedbacks, you can work on your query letter before you query the ones who are truly desirable.

I like this approach; it's safe and you learn from it. What would worry me, however, is if some would want to sign me up and I wouldn't have queried the more desirable ones yet (a luxury problem, I suppose). Janet Reid suggest querying all, and not go by such a list. I haven't yet decided which method to choose; it's something I'll have to think about before Wednesday.

Gatekeeper is an excellent site with loads of information on querying. You can pick up on many hints on what not-to-do. This post has a pie chart on why she chose to say "yes" to a query, and another with a "no". I also love this post called Typical Day.

KT Literary made a really fun post where Daphne opens her query letters live and writes why they don't work. Lots of tips there.

I have studied these sites carefully, both for research on the market and agenting, and then for the dreadful querying.

Task for the day: Read a chapter and fix in the document.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


This morning I continued making the adjustments, but the whole time I didn't feel very good about it. It just felt wrong. So I decided to listen to my instincts and checked out the beginning of the original chapter two and then it came to me; I could make chapter two into chapter one and drop tiny little details here and there to make it work. And it did work! The chapter starts with action and I'm able to introduce all character fluently and the story just begins without any long musings or backstory. This way I also get to keep that extra plot that I intended to delete. I just felt that the story wasn't interesting enough after taking it out. It just wasn't the story I wrote and loved.

--> Listen to your gut on how you want your story to be.

--> If the first chapter is not very interesting, see if you can make the second chapter into your first and adjust it a little.

Fortunately I'd saved the manuscript under a different name before making yesterdays changes. If I hadn't, the whole two chapters would be gone.

--> Always save your manuscript under a different name before making major changes.

I'm feeling so much better now that I'm actually smiling. I'm looking forward to the querying process again, knowing that the examples I'll send will be more captivating than they were.

Task for today: Continue reading the original manuscript to check for minor mistakes. Send the full profile to have it proofread.

Have a great day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chapter Completed

Jean-Baptiste Greuze
I finished the revised chapters this morning, and I managed to chop the two 15,000 worded chapters (combined) down to a single 2,500 worded one. But that was the easy part; now I have to adjust the rest to the changes. I have already shortened the former chapter three into chapters two (3,600) and three (3,700). The first chapter is a lot shorter, but it'll just have to be. I could add backstory or some musings, but I don't think it'll make the chapter better.

I was beginning to doubt myself again over the weekend. There's just so much competition out there and I kept thinking why should they choose my manuscript? But then I reminded myself of some advices I've seen on the internet:

--> Why not your work?


--> You don't know until you've queried.

I suppose that I was so relieved when I thought I was ready to query that I feel like I've taken a humongous step backwards. Not only do I have to adjust the chapters, but I also have to adjust my query letter a little and the proposal as well (character sketches and two-page synopsis). Okay, now that I think about it, it's not really that much. It's only a paragraph in the synopsis and minor changes in the sketches. I just have to give myself this week to do this and then hopefully be able to query next week. Hopefully.

--> Give yourself time to perfect your manuscript. Don't rush.

Well, I think I'll rest a little now. I was woken up early this morning by the chipmunks. They're at the kindergarten now, but will be home soon.

Have a nice day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Preparing for a Change

IKEA Princess Cake

Before rewriting the first chapter, I've decided to look through the first three chapters and see what I need to keep in order to make it work. I need to make sure that the readers care for the characters as much by the end of that one chapter, as much as at the end of the first two chapters. That means that I need to drop a little backstory in the first chapter (nothing extensive, just a little), and then drop the rest of it throughout the book. It shouldn't be hard since I know of places which are perfect for it. Still, I'll need to shorten the backstory a lot.

--> Don't use a lot of backstory/reflecting in the first chapter.

I've decided to start the story from a complete different angle. As it is now, the story begins with Eva (the PoV protagonist), at school, mostly thinking about the guy she likes, the school bully, and her life at home. This is a lot of reflecting, and something online agents/editors don't recommend. The second chapter is more action where Eva leaves home to meet up with the rest of the characters. This chapter is more interesting and there's action in it, but since I've decided to remove the minor-plot that starts in this chapter (that was supposed to continue throughout the three books), the chapter doesn't really work. The third chapter is where the four teens face the main problem, that they'll work on solving throughout the trilogy, but I'm hoping that I can shorten it to make the journey go faster. The fun part really starts in the beginning of 2/3'd, and that's much too late in the story, I think.

--> Don't make the story start off too slowly. Get to the fun part fast.

My chapters are also around 8,000 words long, and I'm going to see if I can shorten them. That doesn't mean deleting 3,000 words from each, it just means that I'm going to see if I can split a chapter into two. Currently, the book is 118,000 words long with 15 chapters. If it works, it'll be 102,000 long (by replacing the first three chapters with one) with 26 chapters. 100,000 words is a lot more sell-able than 120,000. I read somewhere that, although tastes differ, the majority of YA teenagers prefer many short chapters as opposed to a few long chapters. Randy suggests 2,500 words per chapter, but I think that's too short.

--> If writing YA, don't keep the chapters too long.

Well, it's still weekend, and I'm taking my twins to IKEA today. Because the Princess of Sweden is getting married (and taking over the reign), IKEA is giving all kids that show up in prince or princess outfits sweets and cakes. They also have an offer on princess-cakes (which are just yummy), and other Swedish food products. Then we're going to the movies (for their third time) to see Toy Story 3 (not 3D, one of the twins refused to wear the glasses last time).

Have a nice day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

New to Blogspot

Hello Blogspot readers! I just moved my posts from Wordpress. Currently they don't have the "follow" option, which is something I didn't realize until after I created the blog there. I will probably keep blogging in both places (copy/paste), so that my current readers won't get cheated.

As I said in my first post, the purpose of this blog is to follow my process in becoming a professional writer. I have a completed manuscript and I felt I was ready to query up until yesterday.

I look forward to getting to know you.

Tessa Quin


Picture from Audojungle.

I received an email yesterday; I got rejected. It took the agent less than 24 hours to respond and I appreciate that. I'm also very proud that I didn't cry. Of course it was hard and I had to take a few deep breaths, but I was so busy yesterday that I didn't have time to wallow in it. The very first rejection is probably the hardest (that, or the very first rude rejection). The letter was very polite, thanking me for the query, saying that unfortunately the manuscript didn't sound like something that's right for them, and wishing me the best of success on placing my work elsewhere.

--> Be strong and proud of yourself when you receive your very first rejection.

So I did some thinking. I read Jody Hedlund's advice on first chapter mistakes, and it confirmed my suspicion that my chapter starts off too slowly, with way too much backstory. She also advices to make the manuscript the very best it can be before querying. As I've reflected before, I think that mine could do with some work on the first chapters. So I've decided that before querying more agents, I'm going to delete the first three chapters and see if I can make the story go a lot faster. I'm also going to delete one of the minor plots that doesn't weight much anymore since I deleted the fifth chapter some weeks ago and rewrote it. This will both shorten the word count and make it more fast-paced.

--> Make the story the very best it can be before querying.

I started brainstorming yesterday, and continued when I woke up this morning. I now know how I'm going to start the chapter, and the rest should come easily after that (since I know my characters so well). I'm going to do what Jody suggests: throw the characters into the whirlpool and see what happens. I don't think I'll change the later chapters, only adjust them a little.

But today I'm going to take a breather. I'm going to finish reading the book I've been putting on hold, then I'm going to the library, and play with my kids over the weekend. I'll start writing on Monday, bright and early, so that I'll have the whole week to concentrate.

Task for the day: Relax.

Have a nice day!

Agent Querying

Inspired by Iceland

I just sent my very first query letter, and I actually feel a little queasy. My finger hovered for about a minute before I pressed the send button. I pressed it when my husband threatened to press it for me.

--> Be the one to press the very first send to your very first query!

I suppose that the reason I feel a bit queasy is a) nerves, b) excitement, c) the fact that I still haven't finished reading the final read of my manuscript. But it'll only take the next two days to finish reading it and I'm sure it'll take more than two days for the agent to pick out my query letter to read. They say I can expect a month. So I'll get busy reading today to make sure that there were no little mistakes last time I made corrections.

I also offered the agent to request the full proposal. I felt it was ready last night, but now I'm bit nervous since I feel I must shorten the character sketch part and maybe the author bio. Again, I should be able to do that over the weekend.

--> Be completely happy with your full profile before querying...if you don't want nerves to pain you the next day.

This is why you shouldn't query when you're too tired.

--> Be wide awake and fresh when querying.

Despite of all that, I'm very excited. I know my chances are slim, but I'm curious to see what happens. I thought the query letter turned out well and I included the first five pages of the manuscript.

What I was unhappy with was that I chose to write in plain format, which means that there were no italics and the whole thing looked just like a string of letters. I fixed it so that there were white spaces between paragraphs, but if the agent copies it to Word, there'll be double spaces. I chose to write in plain because then I'd be sure that there would be no funny letters in between (which sometimes happens in rich formatting). I've read multiple posts on how agents don't like fancy formats and such, so I made it as simple as I could. I have no idea if plain format is the right choice, but here's for hoping.

--> Don't use fancy fonts and decoration in your query letters.

I also kept to the point, but kept my voice, as many blog editors/agents recommend.

--> Keep your voice in the letter, but be professional.

I promise to post my query letter if I get published (if the publisher won't mind it). If you've been reading my blog, you'll see that I've complained about the lack of actual successful queries posted on the internet.

Well, it's independence day here in Iceland, 17th of June, and it's time to focus on my twins now. The celebration should be fun (even though I'll probably sneak in an hour or three of work).

Task for the day: Read 50 pages and then take a breather to enjoy the day.

Have a nice day!

Fantasy Forever

By bkharmaw on
By bkharmaw on

Wow. I completed my query letter yesterday and sent it off to have it proofread. It'll take 1-2 days and it's already been one, and I'm oh-so-tired of waiting. How will I be when I actually send it and have to wait for a response? At least I feel that I'm ready to send it, and that's a good sign.

Since yesterday, I've been reading the manuscript yet again, and I'm so glad I did. Last time I read it, I made so many changes, so I've already found five places half way through where I forgot to delete a word. Naturally, I used the opportunity to change other little things as well.

--> Read the manuscript again if you've made a lot of changes.

I don't think I'll read it again though. I think I must have read all of the 250 word pages at least twenty times, and I so want to get the novel out there and try my luck. Honestly, I've read the manuscript so many times that I think I can tell the story blindfolded. At least I'll be able to tell the agent/publisher how changes would affect the rest of the chapters.

The query letter turned out nicely, I think. I've been poring over different hooks and then suddenly a good one came to me. I hope it'll catch the attention of the agent, if not, then I'll have other query letters ready, just in case.

--> If you're exclusively querying an agent, have other queries ready in case he/she turns you down.

As I've said before, I'm only going to query this one exclusively, and then I'll send a bunch if he declines.

I read an interesting interview with Stephenie Meyer. She said that she sent out 15 queries. Five didn't answer back and eight turned her down. She then got an agent deal and a huge book deal, and shortly after she received the ninth rejection letter that was terribly rude, saying that she'd never get published etc.

I find myself asking, why would agents send such rude letters? I can understand it if the writer querying is rude in his/her letter, but why be so mean?

I don't know. Yes, it's nice to get a critique, even if they break your heart, but downright rude critiques? I just don't see the point in them. At least this example shows how different agents are in their tastes.

I'm still bracing myself for the whole process of agent questing. As I've said before, I'm going to view the rejection letters as a part of the process and nothing personal (even if I'll get a rude letter like Meyer got). I'm kind of looking at it as a challenge, and I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.

And I'm so determined to get my book published. If it won't, I think I'll even re-write it, because the story idea and characters are good, and it's different and fresh. I wrote it before I knew anything of the market (the requirements, structure etc.), and then edited it afterwards. I've also been reading a lot of books in my genre recently and noticed that my novel doesn't start as quickly as they do. I think that if I'll get turned down by everyone, I might rewrite the first half of the novel (ugh, but it would be a challenge, and as I said: it's going to get published).

--> Be positive and keep rooting for your book!

I've also been worried about the trend of fantasy dieing down, but then I read somewhere that even though the agents are turning down all queries containing the word "vampire"; my novel doesn't have vampires in it. The beings I have created are different (and aren't remotely related to vampires), and might be just what the agents are looking for.

Fantasy will never die. It's been alive since our ancestors were telling stories about elves, trolls, Odin, Thor, and the rest in Valhalla. Even the ancient Egyptians told fantasies. It's in our blood, and it will continue to fascinate future generations.

So, I'll let myself believe that although vampires may be getting old, other kind of fantasy will take its place for now.

Task for the day: Read the next chapter.

Have a nice day!

P.S. Vampires may be fading, but I'm still heavily sucked in. I'm currently reading the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast.

Full Proposal Completed!

Inspired by Iceland

I finished my full proposal yesterday, and I feel incredibly accomplished! This means that all I need to do now is take a second look at the query synopsis before I send it out. I'm uncertain if I should send the Hollywood-action-blurp one, or the sedate-'stating what happens'-professional one. It seems that Query Shark would prefer the sedate one, but Heather Brewer has this nice action one that gave her nine out of eleven responses. But Heather's book is rated for kids of ages 9-12 on Amazon, and my book is for 14-22, or thereabouts. I wish I knew how Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini and Cassandra Clare queried. Honestly, there should be a site with examples of the successful YA writers' query letters.

--> Have your query letter read for mistakes before sending it.

I have a problem. My fingers are itching to rewrite the whole first chapter and delete a chunk of the second chapter. I'm not sure if it's just an excuse not to send out the query yet (because the act of sending a query is terrifying to me), or if I'm truly unhappy with the first chapter. I suppose that if I look deep, I am happy with the first chapter, but it has a lot of backstory and doesn't "dive in" like many people suggest that first chapters should do. Still, I think it's beautifully written and it explains so much that needs explaining before the "point at which the action starts" (as Query Shark calls it). That point doesn't happen until the end of the second chapter/beginning of the third. And my chapters are loooong, I realized after I wrote the book. They're 7,000-8,000 words.

Kristin at Pub Rants says that the point of action should be within the first 30 pages. Mine is at page 33. I hope it doesn't make too much of a difference, but I'm now thinking that I could change the first chapter and delete a big part of the second to make that happen.

...Or maybe I'm just having a hard time letting go...

--> Learn to let go!

I asked Randy of how to do it and hope that he'll reply.

Task for the day: Look at nice queries and see if I can apply my novel to the recipe. Look at my already existing queries and see if I can make changes. Have my queries read to check spelling/punctuation.

Have a nice day!

Inspired by Iceland

Inspired by Iceland
From the Inspired by Iceland project

I'm trying to post with my three-year-old twins playing in the room. Let's see how it works out (one comes up to have a dinosaur bite me).

I will post pictures of Iceland to help promote the Inspired by Iceland project. The pictures will be taken from their website unless I say otherwise.

I worked on my full proposal yesterday. I completed (and here comes the other dinosaur) the executive summary, which I had already started on, the character sketches, which is more like a character bible, so I might need to shorten it, and the author bio, which I'll probably need to shorten since I have no novel published (only a short story for charity and a Harry Potter related forum, which I created and administrated). I feel like I should mention both, since it is writing experience, although it's different from actual fiction writing.

--> Create an author bio and keep it related to writing fiction. Include this in your full proposal.

I already created the contact page, which was the easiest, and the two-page synopsis wasn't so hard either, since I followed Randy Ingermanson's instructions.

Now all I have left is the cover letter, which shouldn't be hard since it's almost like the query letter, an analysis of other books and compare them to mine (this is what I'm dreading the most, but will do after the weekend), and suggestions on how I could help market the book, which should be easy to write - fun, even.

I also think I might make a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. I read on a submissions page of one agent that she wanted such. This should be fun. (Pause to put on cartoons)

--> Write down what you need to write in your full proposal and do the easy stuff first. That way you feel accomplished and are more enthused to finish the hard stuff.

I decided to broaden my reading a little since most of it was vampire-based, and my book contains no vampires. I picked up Tithe by Holly Black, and although I thought the beginning was very dark for a YA novel, it sucked me in and I simply love it. I recommend it and can't wait for a little peace and quiet to read more (I'm about half way in, took great willpower to put it down last night).

--> Read a lot of books in your genre.

I also have Hunted by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast waiting (vampire-based, I know, but I'm still going to read it), and Fallen by Lauren Kate is on a waiting list at the library - Yes, they have these books in English in Icelandic libraries. It should be available on Monday, and I have plenty to read until then. I really love the cover of Fallen. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan also looked appealing, but they only have that in Akureyri, the big town up north (did you know that Iceland only has one city?).

And peace is out, I should go and play with the boys.

Take care!

Final Polishing

Well, it took a little longer than I thought, but I've finished my final polish at last. I ended up spending all of my time during the weekend with my sons, and I greatly enjoyed it. I suppose even writers need a break from their work. I've spent all days and evenings since reading the second half of the manuscript and typing it into the computer. I suppose it differs between writers, but I enjoy the reading and editing more than typing it all in.

I managed to get the manuscript down to 118,000 words, but I added an emotional chunk in the last chapter which took the manuscript up to 118,600 words. Still, it's better than 126.600, and it is true what they say; less is more. This first book of mine has gone through major changes since the original manuscript, but it being my first, I've been learning as I go and I'm very pleased with the results. What I've chopped off this round are things like "Meg said sardonically" and such, because the reader can already see that her remark was sarcastic.

--> The reader isn't stupid and can read between the lines.

I've wondered if I'd have to do such serious changes through the next manuscript, but I highly doubt it since I know a lot more now and I should be able to apply it as I write. My fingers are itching to write the next book, I already have some scenes written, but I've read some blogs and articles that recommend holding off writing the second book in a series until the first book is ready for publication, since the manuscript will go through serious editing first and that might change the whole second manuscript. I suppose I'll just write some scenes while querying agents, since the process supposedly takes so long.

Now that the manuscript is ready for querying, it's time to work on my full proposal again. I've found many articles and blogs on how to do it, and I'll also read Randy's book, which is just wonderful and easy to follow. I'll save the comparison to other books in the same genre for last, I think, since it's going to take some pondering. I know that it'll fly off my fingers once I get into it though. I have already finished the two-page synopsis, which wasn't difficult to write at all! All I did was follow Randy's formula and voila! Randy is my Wikipedia of getting published.

--> Write a two-page synopsis.

I submitted my one-sentence summary to Rachelle Gardner's blog, but I learned that it was much to vague. I'll have to spend some time on it to make it better. Rachelle made long posts on what made the winning entries win and what made the bad one bad. I think I need to introduce more conflict into the sentence. There's a lot of conflict in the book, but to make it so that it's conveyed in 25 words or less is a bit difficult. Apparently, according to some, this one-sentence summary (storyline) is a big deal for publishers. I like Randy's reasons for writing one, and that is to be able to tell people and agents/publishers you're meeting what the book is about in one, short sentence. I tried following his instructions on how to write one, but as I said, mine is too vague and could apply to a number of books.

Currently it goes: Stuck in a mystical world, Eva is forced to pick a side in a deadly battle between good and evil to get home.

I also had: Eva and the boy of her dreams are stuck in a mystical world, and are forced to pick a side in a deadly battle between good and evil to get home.

What I was trying to point out here is that they'd consider choosing evil. Clearly their stake is to get back home and the conflict was supposed to be to choose.

The problem, I think, is that the stakes of the series is to get home, while the stakes of this one book is to choose between helping the good or evil. The storyline for the second book is easy, but that's not going to sell this book.

I think I'll have to re-think the whole sentence and maybe approach it from different angle.

--> Write a one-sentence summary (storyline).

Maybe I could have it: Eva loves Richard and they’re stuck in a mystical world together, but when Eva meets the dark and dangerous enemy, she finds it hard to fight the attraction.

That's Eva's conflict, and she's the only PoV character in the book. The choice between good and evil is more the conflict for the group (of four) as a whole.

Any thoughts?

Today's task: Print out two copies of the book and have two obliging friends read it over one last time. Work on the full proposal - Executive Summary, to be exact - and finalize my character profiles (have most if it done already).

Take care!

Staying Focused

I just finished reading the 50 pages, and found that the changes I made really work. The story is more to the point now and even has more action in it. I've only read through about 1/3 of my book, I'll read the rest over the weekend. At least I won't have to do any more serious changes to the manuscript.

--> Read carefully through your manuscript before querying. Then read carefully through it again.

After I finish correcting the little changes, I'll read through the manuscript yet again (for possibly the 15th time - as I said, perfectionism can be a curse). Then, hopefully it'll be ready. I had a freelance editor read over the old manuscript, but I don't think I'll have her read over it again, since I only changed one chapter, because it costs a lot of money (especially since the Icelandic Krona plummeted in 2007 and hasn't recovered much since).

--> Have someone read over the manuscript for mistakes (grammar or structure-vise).

--> Have the manuscript polished and ready before querying.

Last night I was feeling a bit pessimistic about ever getting this book published, because I keep working on it, over and over, and I never seem satisfied. The story, writing and everything is great, and much, much better than a lot of what I've read, but I see this difficult task ahead of getting an agent, and reading about all the trials and horrors of trying to get one. One starts to wonder why one would be the exception. I think that ALL new authors must be intimidated by the process, so I don’t think I’m alone here.

In my agony, I visited Publishers Marketplace and very easily found 10 possible agencies, in case my chosen one refuses. I'll look for more (already have some bookmarked that I haven't written on my list yet), because I expect to have to query a lot, just like everyone else.

--> Compile a list of agencies to query - a lot of agencies.

Reading comments on the agencies’ pages kind of lifted my spirits and encouraged me to just stay focused on my project, finish polishing the manuscript (and I won't - I repeat - won't read over it again after I've finished reading through all of it as a whole after my changes), finish writing the full proposal and polish my query letter to the chosen one.

--> Keep focused on one thing at a time and try not to be overwhelmed by what's ahead.

Then, since my book is the first in a series of three, with the possibility of more if the publisher would be interested, I'll have to make a synopsis for the other two books, which should be easy since I know exactly what's going to happen and have most of it noted.

I read somewhere last night, that publishers were going for single books now, instead of series, and I was disheartened by that. But then this morning I read on Randy's blog that publishers often want to sign new authors who have series, because the marketing cost will stretch over a series of books instead of all of it on a single book. That made me feel better. Whichever is true, I'll have to stick to my project, which could by no means fit into one book, and stay positive.

--> Make a synopsis for the next book(s) in the series. Include this in your full proposal.

The one thing I'm dreading a lot (if I allow myself to think of the things ahead) is comparing my book to other books. Most of the books I like to read are vampire books, and my book isn't vampire-based, although it's paranormal. I know that many writers probably say this, but I don't think there's another book quite like mine. The magical creatures are unique - I haven't heard of or read about any that are similar, and the world, I suppose, is a bit Lords of the Ring'ish - and yet not at all the same. I can hardly compare my book to the masterpiece of J.R.R. Tolkien - I've read warnings about comparing your book to anything hugely popular (I think it was Randy that advised against it in his book).

--> Find books in the same genre, make short synopsis for them and compare them to your books in a few words. Include this in your full proposal.

I thought I could use Eragon, Twilight maybe (although it's vampire based, and hugely popular), The Mortal Instruments series (definitely) and ehm... Any ideas anyone? I could hardly go for Harry Potter, since that was beyond huge. Still, I suppose I could compare it - it is another world, and although my series is for teens a bit older than the first Harry Potter book was written for, the later books were for older teens, I thought. I suppose these books are the most commonly chosen to compare ones YA fantasy with.

Task for the day: Type in the little changes into the three chapters I read this morning, pick up my twins form the kindergarten and go to my parents for the weekend!

Task for the weekend: Read the rest of the chapters and check for any mistakes and try to put the book out of my mind for just enough time to enjoy the celebrations.

Have a nice day!

Tessa Quin

First-Time Author


I'm Tessa Quin (32), a first-time author of a YA fantasy/adventure novel. The novel is complete at around 120,000 words, and is the first in a series. I'm getting ready for the process of finding a literary agent.

The main purpose of this blog is to follow the process of getting an agent, in hope that it can be of use to others in the future. I will mention no names of agents in any of my blogs – with the possible exception of the agent I’ll sign up with.

I have one particular agent in mind, and I plan to query him exclusively and see if he will request the manuscript. If not, I'll start sending queries to various agents.

Right now I'm going over the manuscript yet again (perfectionist here - it's a curse), and I deleted a chapter (roughly 6,000 words) and wrote a shorter scene to deliver the same results. I did this because I thought the old scene was too much of a sidetrack, and now the manuscript is more linear with the story goal.

--> Stick to the plot and try not to sidetrack too much.

Plus, the manuscript is around 120,000 words, instead of 125,000, which might be a bit too much when it comes to publishing a first time author. Apparently, 80,000-100,000 words is what publishers look for in a YA novel, but fortunately, some have been known to bend that rule.

--> A YA novel should usually be no more than 100,000 words.

This is not the first time I delete such a chunk, I deleted the whole second chapter and rewrote it to make it more interesting. The result was a much better, more to-the-point chapter that I think my future readers will appreciate.

I'm also working on my proposal. I'm the type of person who likes to have everything ready upon request, and that's why I haven't sent out queries yet. I think it’s a good idea, and I think the agents will appreciate it.

--> Have a full proposal at the ready, or at least most of it done before querying.

I think that my main obstacle is that I don't live in America, and so it'll be difficult to find a literary agent in the USA. I live in Iceland, and as far as I know, I have no foreign traces in my blood. Needless to say, Tessa Quin is my pen-name, because my real name is a bit of a mouthful for foreigners.

I chose to publish in the United States because the market in Iceland is very small (it's a nation of roughly 300,000 people). That means that my possible readership would be maybe 60-70,000, minus the fact that many Icelandic teens don't like to read, so in the end, I'd be faced with a very small readership.

Do I believe that more teenagers in America would buy my book? Absolutely! The book is fresh, fun and filled with plots and interesting characters. I get inspired by Iceland, the scenery, the people, the folklore and history. I also believe that the book will sell well in other foreign markets. Plus, my English is excellent, and I’m not too modest to say so ;)

When I’m writing (and I always write in English), I’m in my element. That’s why I chose to take the leap and dedicate myself to the craft. I’m determined to see this brilliant book get published.

Thanks for reading and have a good day,

Tessa Quin