Writing Tips

4 Ways to Prepare for Querying Literary Agents

Even before drafting those query letters, synopses, and book proposals, there are several important ways to prepare for pursuing traditional publishing. While you are still editing your manuscript, take a little bit of time out of each day to prepare for querying literary agents and publishers, and the process of chasing down someone to publish your book will go much smoother when you are ready.

If you have just begun thinking about traditional publishing or if you researching literary agents in general, check out this fantastic and thorough blog post by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: How to Find a (Real) Literary Agents. This article provides information on the function of literary agents, how to find the right one, and how to query or submit to them.

So if you want to be traditionally published, here are four simple ways to prepare before you start querying

4 Ways to Prepare for Querying Literary Agents

1. Make a list of 3 to 5 literary agents or publishers

Preferably before you start your last round of edits, figure out who your top picks for literary agents or publishers are. If you want to query a publisher, make sure that they accept unsolicited submissions. This means that you do not need to have a literary agent to submit. Most big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if that is the case for one of your top picks, then focus on finding an agent instead. Also make sure that the agent or publisher represents your genre!

Tip: There are lots of ways to find literary agents and publishers. Try reading through the acknowledgement section of books in your genre or use a search engine specific such as AgentQuery or QueryTracker. Check out of the link from SFWA for more ideas.

2. Follow them on Facebook or other social media

Following agents and publishers on Facebook and Twitter allows you to casually get to know them and their preferences better. Many post tips and hints about the stories and queries that they like best. All post about the books they are currently working on (see tip 4 for why this is important to you). And to a certain extent, social media allows you to get to know the agents personally. Personality does matter when choosing an agent. You will not only be working with them as business partners, but since writing is very personal, you need to find someone who will really love your genre, premise, and style.

Tip: Don’t be a stalker! Go ahead and comment on posts that truly excite you, but don’t comment or like constantly– especially for a short period of time (aka a week or two before you query them). Ask yourself if you are commenting just to get their attention or check off a box. Especially for a teen author, an obsessive presence can come across as immature and desperate.

3. Follow their blogs

This is even more important than Facebook. All of the agents on my list post writing tips and– even more importantly– publishing and querying tips on their blog. What is a better way to impress them with your manuscript or novel than by knowing exactly what they like?

Tip: Also consider following their published authors’ blogs. You will find fewer publishing tips on these, but you can learn more about the types of personalities and books that they represent.

4. Read several of their books

Do a little bit of research (once you have found their blog or website, it is not hard) to find a list of the books that the agent has represented or the publisher has published. Pick a couple books that are in your genre and published in the past year or two (the recenter, the better) and read them. If you find yourself underwhelmed, considering looking for a new agent or publisher, but if you genuinely become a fan, don’t hesitated to let the author know and comment on the author’s blog.

Tip: Reading books previously published by the agent or publisher that you are querying is a great way to impress them, but don’t over exaggerate and be honest about what you liked or even disliked. Also most query letters include several comparative titles, these books make great comparative titles since they show the agent/publisher that your book is similar to what they like to represent. However, make sure you compare in meaningful ways that show you have read the book or else this can come off as a cheap trick from someone who doesn’t actually like or has even read their books.

By taking these simple steps before you start querying, you can make the querying process much smooth once you start. If you already know what agents you want to query and their preferences, you have a huge advantage while editing your story, and when it comes time to query, you will already know what to do rather than panicking and researching last minute.

Are any of you guys seeking traditional publishing? Would you like to see more posts like this in the future? Now that I am more focused on traditional publishing; I’d be happy to share what I am learning.

God bless,

Gabrielle

Writing Tips

Christian Fiction: Should I have an Allegorical God?

Should I have an Allegorical God

For many of us, our first introduction to Christian fiction was The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis chose to create a wonderful allegory for God through a lion named Aslan, and this was a genuinely touching introduction to allegorical Christian fiction. But after our first journey with Aslan, we read many other Christian allegories with less meaningful themes and God-characters that either fall flat or bordered on heresy. The problem with these allegories is that God-characters are difficult to write and often are not the best way to get themes and Christian messages across.

This is a struggle for Christian writers, and we should not lightly undertake writing an allegorical character for God.

God is unfathomably complex, so how do you simplify Him enough for a story while still communicating His specific attributes? And how do you convey the unfathomable nature of God while making the allegorical character personal? Then there is the terrifying point when you realize that you have to put words into the mouth of your God-character. (Yikes!) So we often end up flippantly regurgitating Bible stories and turning them into cliches or tweaking them a bit too much and ending up with heresy. Many characters supposed to be allegorical for God end up looking more like Puzzle’s lion, from The Last Battle, rather than Aslan, and very few writers succeed in writing an allegorical character for God. So how do you know if writing an allegorical God-character is best for your story?

Writing Christian Fiction, Should I have an Allegorical God

Today, I am not going to offer tips on writing an allegorical God-character,  though there are ways to avoid the aforementioned problems (such as using scripture as the basis for dialogue). Instead, I want to help you figure out if having a God-character is best for your story.

In general, the reason why we initially decide to have a God-character is because we want to have a Christian theme. However, a Christian theme does not always require a God character. So ask yourself the question:

Would my themes be more powerful if this character was a normal person and not an allegory for God?

Sometimes substituting in a well-rounded human character for your God-character actually makes a theme more powerful. After all flawed, vulnerable and very human followers of Christ are called to act like Christ to others:

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” Galatians 4:19

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 5:27

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…” 1 Peter 2:21

By using a human character, we can offer our readers a better sense of sacrifice and love– not that our love is greater than God’s (it most certainly is not), but that the stories we construct often don’t properly show and depict God-level love, and the message become more powerful when a weak, flawed human is able to act as Christ to another through the power of God.

Having a human character also gives us more freedom to develop personality and make the story more realistic– after all, we can hardly know what or why God does what He does, but we can find realistic motivation for human character. Also this strategy allows the reader able to connect better with a complex character rather than a simplified representation of God. Finally, this ups the stakes of your story. With a human character, your readers will worry about them dying or making the wrong choice whereas if you have an allegorical God, then most readers will recognize that He can neither die nor chose wrong.

However, some stories require an allegorical God. I cannot imagine Narnia without Aslan. Just be careful with characters who are allegories for God. Ask yourself if you really even need an allegorical God before you start messing with something that might be beyond you (for now, anyways.) There is no shame in admitting that you are not ready to write an allegorical God. Personally, I have just realized that I am not ready, and that is okay. My story will be better now that I have admitted as much and plan to use a human character to show Christ to others.

So have you ever written a story with an allegorical God? What are your thoughts on these type of strong allegories?

God bless,

Gabrielle

Writing Tips

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

The world needs more young writers– preteens, teenagers, and young adults with passion and purpose that they want to share. But being a young writer comes with unique and difficult problems, and one of the biggest struggles of young writers is never ending editing and revision.

The cycle is quite simple. A teenager writes a longer story– perhaps a novel. As they write, they learn more about writing in school or online, and being young, they learn at an exponential rate, and their writing style changes dramatically in only weeks and months. Once they finish the draft, they read over it, wincing and wanting to apply their new knowledge, and so they decide to revise and edit the draft. If they learned a lot, then perhaps they even need to rewrite the entire thing. The problem is that while they are rewriting, they are still learning and growing, and so once that draft is completed, another needs to be written. Thus the Never Ending Editing Cycle.

I understand. I have rewritten my novel so many times that sometimes I wonder if it will ever be publishing quality much less if I will ever be satisfied with it. One round I fixed my main character so that she was not wooden and actually tolerable. I went through another rewrite when I discovered that I did not just want to tell a fun story but needed to say something important. Now I need to fix my plot so that my readers don’t put my novel down at chapter 6. Is my writing getting better? Most definitely! But will I ever be finished, and will my writing ever be a good representation of what I can actually do?

That is the question we all have, and so I want you to know that other young writers are struggling with this, too.

But now that you know that you are not the only one struggling with constant disappointment and never ending edit, let’s look at our options as young writers. The facts remain: we will grow faster than a draft is written. So let’s break down our choices. It is quite simple: either we can stop editing or keep on editing. And if we stop editing, we can either publish or keep our writing to ourselves.

Young Writers and the Never Ending Editing Cycle

Stop Editing: This is a perfectly valid option– even though you know that the piece is not the best you can do. Do you have other story ideas that better reflect your skill? Do your characters and plot need a complete transformation to reflect your current skills? Is there anything that you absolutely love about the story, or are you simply holding onto it because you are afraid to completely start over? If you are only editing because you don’t have any new story ideas or are afraid of starting over, consider being done with your project and holding onto it as a part of your history as a writer.

Stop Editing and Seek Publication: Perhaps your work is not the best representation of what you can do, but this does not mean that it is not publishing quality. It’s not your masterpiece, but it may be good enough for publishing. It may make you wince, but it might not make others wince. Especially if you are an older teen writer consider this. And if you are still worry about it being good enough, then consider marketing it as middle grade or for younger teens.

Stop Editing and Keep the Writing for Yourself: Maybe you’re sure that your work is not publishing material, or perhaps you are sure that you don’t want to see it published. So keep it for yourself. Progress and old works are sentimental, and so enjoy your imperfect work for yourself. Don’t try to fix it, and simply love the piece as a part of your journey. Maybe in several years, once your writing growth slows down a bit, you can completely rewrite it– but keep the old draft as well.

Keep on Editing: So this may not seem like a solution, but perhaps your problem is simply discouragement and not the multitude of edits. Here’s the thing: I love my story. I love my characters. I love my world. And I am holding out hope that one day, I will finish a round of edits and realize that this is something I can be proud of. This mindset is not unreasonable. One day we will all be mature adults who don’t learn quite as fast, and I love this story enough that I am willing to wait until then. Maybe this means that I won’t be published as a teenager, but I love this story enough that I am fine with that. So do you love your story enough to wait and lose the prize of being published as a teen? If this sounds painful, then don’t wait and force yourself through more and more edits. Write something new and be free of the editing cycle! But if you truly love your story, don’t feel guilty for obsessing over rewrites or give into hopelessness because you can’t imagine your story being finished. Know that one day it will be finished. We just have to wait and keep on editing.

So if you have been edited your story over and over again, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I afraid of completely starting over with a brand new idea and a blank document?
  • Is this work publishable or could it be sentimental and just for me?
  • Do I love this story enough to wait 5-10 years to publish– all the while editing it over and over again?

All three options to the young writer’s editing dilemma are valid; they just depend on you and your story. So what are you going to do?

God bless,

Gabrielle