Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Intern Advice: You are Ready to Query When...

So you think you are ready to query your dream agents. But are you, really? How do you know for sure? Let's talk about what you should have ready if you think you are ready to query.
 

I am in this boat right now. I have a completed manuscript and I've taken it to a few writer's retreats to get some outside-my-critique-group eyes on it - professional eyes - not friends or husband.

You all know by now that the first line of the first chapter is one of the most important. The next important is the first page, then the first chapter itself then the first 50, and then the rest of the book.

The first 50 - yes - the first 50. Because if you get an agent to read your query, then your first chapter, and that still hooks them, they will read to 50 pages. They know that most manuscripts fall apart in the first 50. That's right, they stop making sense, become too weird, lose the plot, characters change too quickly, voice is lost, and anything that will make a manuscript blah happens in the first 50.

Here's how I've gone about getting my manuscript ready to query. You might want to follow this path. It will help mold your manuscript into the best version of itself.




  •  First Line: First, I went to the book store and chose every book in my genre that caught my eye or was on the display shelf, and I read hundreds of first lines. I wrote my favorites down in a notebook. This not only helped me to understand first lines better, but I ended up finding some great new reads for myself. 


  • Revise First Line: Next I played with those first lines on my computer inserting my characters and actions where their characters and actions were. I changed them and molded them until I came up with my own sentence.


  • First Page: After I had my best first line. I reread my first page. I took it to my critique group and had them read it out loud. I made sure every sentence was precise. I made sure each paragraph made you want to read the next and then the next.


  • First Chapter: Then I read the first chapter. I did the same with the remaining paragraphs. And I concentrated on the ending, to be sure readers will want to turn the page to the second chapter. 


 

  • Writer's Retreat One: After I believed I had the best first chapter, I signed up for a writer's retreat and a private first chapter critique. When I arrived at the retreat I found out that I had an agent as my private critique. I was nervous, but also knew this would be the best for me to grow. She gave me a wonderful full paged typed critique. She told me my idea was unique, that she hadn't heard of it before, but I had a lot of work to do. I took her advice and revised again. (Note: Writer's retreats can be expensive...be sure you are ready before you go. If a retreat is not an option for you at this time, you can ask a teacher to help you, swop manuscripts with someone on line, apply for retreat money at SCBWI or other writer's associations.)





  • Writer's Retreat Two: Once I thought, again, that I had the best first chapter, I signed up for another retreat. There I was in two groups where they would read my first chapter and give advice. The groups had 4-5 writers as well as a group leader. One of my group leaders was the Pay it Forward writer. The other was an editor at HarperTeen. I got lots of amazing help and feedback from everyone in the group. Then I revised.

  • Revised First Chapter: After revising...How did I revise, you ask?...I literally cut up my first chapter with a pair of hair-cutting scissors I scored from a generous friend there, because I forgot my scissors...I laid out my first chapter paragraphs on the bed and rearranged some while throwing out others and then I wrote new paragraphs to link them in a new way....


  • Introduced New Chapter: Once revision was done, I took my new chapter back to the groups the next day and they all said it was much stronger. I even got the green light to query it from both group leaders. This was the first time I've ever had professionals in this field I love tell me I was ready. That was a month ago, but I have not queried my top agents yet....Why?

  • Internship Knowledge: I know from my internship that it's not only the first line or the first chapter - but the first 50. I've been re-writing my first 50, as well as going over the whole manuscript for precision and meaningful sentences. I have to be sure that this shot I take is the best shot I have. 

  • Strong First 50: Today my first 50 are strong. I believe they are ready. I have a meeting in early January with my mentor and he will give me final pointers, and then I will query. 



As you can see writing is a job. It's a job I love and one I haven't received much pay for, but I can't think of doing anything else. A novels timeline can be long or short. This one was my shortest. It took me 5 months to write the novel. Six months to revise it one time through. Two months to really work on the first chapter. One month to go through the first 50 and make them much stronger. And in a few weeks I will be ready to finally query my top picked agents.

Picking agents is a whole other animal, and I will blog about that in the near future.
But if you think you are ready to query and the following check list has happened to you....then good luck! I wish you well.
You Are Ready Checklist: 
  • Your novel is finished
  • Your first line rocks
  • Your first page makes people want more
  • Your first chapter is unique and has strong voice
  • Your query letter peaks interest and is one page
  • You've given examples of what your novel is like. Example: ANIMALIA is a completed 60,000-word sci-fi thriller set in a fantastic, yet realistic world. Think The Island of Dr. Moreau meets Uglies.
  • You've had outside readers give feedback
  • You've had a professional in the industry give feedback
  • You've revised
  • You've gotten a green light from a critique group or professional in the business
  • You've researched agents to query
  • You've taken a few months to step back and breathe
  • You've reread your entire manuscript and you love it --- every scene, every word
  • You've read WritingTeazurs Blog on how to get that agent
  • You've read QueryShark about queries
  • You love your query
  • You are ready! 


Remember this is a business. You are a writer and probably like me more emotional about your work than business minded. Do not shot yourself in the foot because you jumped the gun and queried too early. Get the proper feedback your work needs and then revise. Your idea is worth you crafting it the best it can be.
Good Luck!
And as always,
Write~on
Angie



Friday, December 27, 2013

Shop the After Holiday Sales: Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

So you have a writer in your life. Some days she speaks to you, others she completely ignores you. (Maybe that's just my poor husbands' experience...he he he) In any case, let me show you what any writer, male or female, will want to receive as an after-the-holidays gift from you.











































  • Writers need to set goals to complete manuscripts. Here's a great way, a one-year writing goal calendar, to help the writer in your life: Don't Break the Chain Calendar
































Sales are already papering the internet and right after New Year's Eve - most every store will tack their red sale sign on their doors. Have fun, but buy responsibly. 
And don't be surprised when the writer in your life thanks you and then disappears into their office for a few hours to play with his/her new gifts. 



Write~on
Angie

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BIG SUR WRITER'S RETREAT: Part 1: What I learned


Writers, I wish all of you could have joined me at the annual Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. Writer's Retreat. Wow! That's a mouthful, but totally worth getting out. 

I've been going to this event for the past 3 years, and this year was the absolute best for me. And it all comes down to listening, learning, and applying the critiques.

The first year I went to this retreat I thought, "They're going to love my work. I'm going to show them how awesome I am as a writer and, poof, I'll have an agent just like that."



Didn't happen. 



And it didn't happen because I wasn't ready to listen. When I got a critique I didn't like, which was many, I simply said, "They don't know what I'm writing - or - They don't know where this is going - or - This is first person, I have to use I + verb all the time - or - If they read to the end, they'll understand."

The second year I went I was a more experienced writer and listener. I had been in a critique group for an entire year, trying to figure out why my writing hadn't been strong enough. I thought for sure this will be the year I'll snag myself an agent. 



Still didn't happen. 



This time it wasn't because I didn't listen. I was open to all the critique. It was because I was still learning. I was told by one of the agents that I was indeed a good writer, but the emotions of the characters weren't strong enough for her. I was dumbfounded. I had worked a whole year revising and believed I had done my best work. But obviously I hadn't.

This year, my 3rd year, I felt confident. I had a new project I was bringing. I had worked hard. I had listened and learned and took everything that I heard and understood and I had revised my heart out. I tapped into my emotions and laid them out on the page. 


It hasn't happened yet…


BUT - I am excited to say that the author of PAY IT FORWARD, Catherine Ryan Hyde, believes my first chapter is ready to query agents. It doesn't get any better than that - well, except to actually snag an agent. And one of the editors of HarperTeen said, "I can see this as a movie." And she wanted to read more. 





So my hard work is showing promise. And it's all because I listened, learned, and applied the critiques and sound advice to revising my manuscript.



  • Don't give up!
  • Be open to critique
  • Listen and take notes
  • Learn what is throwing readers out of your manuscript
  • Apply the critique that resonates with you - but be picky - keep your story true
  • Practice your craft - write everyday
  • Focus on your writing
  • And know you can do it



Good Luck and
Write~on
Angie

 








Monday, December 9, 2013

Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author: Kaitlyn Cross


 I reached out to Kaitlyn on Facebook for an interview and even during the busiest time of the year, she said yes. Kaitlyn rocks! And she's funny too. 

This interview is full of helpful info, interesting answers, and I promise you will laugh out loud.

Kaitlyn is enjoying her success as a New York Times Bestselling author. She kept her butt in her writer's chair and worked hard to get there. But I wouldn't be surprised if someday she opens a bakery shop where customers could enjoy a glass of wine with a sweet-- and read her books. 


Below are the questions I asked her:


You have a photo of an amazing cake on your Facebook page right now. It’s making me hungry. Does it have to do with one of your books?
        
It does. Sugars is a dessert lounge in Fate Interrupted 1 & 2 and has always been a dream of mine because I love baking and drinking. Lol!



Why do you write?

I write because it’s what I always wanted to do. I went to college with the goal of becoming a writer for TV and movies. At that point, I figured it was too late to go down the novelist path. 

I hadn’t been submitting stories to magazines or querying editors like you always hear about other writers doing. I thought it was too late, and that kind of thinking almost held me back. 

Fortunately, I ended up writing for radio and learned a lot from some extremely talented people - which afforded me the opportunity to take a shot at my dream.



When you found out you were a bestseller, what did you do first?

After the room stopped spinning, I went out and bought a four hundred dollar purse at Von Maur. Lol! 

In the past, I had paid for most of my purses with Kohl’s Cash so I decided a little splurge was in order. My husband…not so much.



You love scoring deals on purses and shoes. What’s the best site to use?

Piperlime, Zappos and Justfab.com are some great sites to find sweet deals.



How long do you sit butt in chair and write per day?

I like to knock out a few hours in the morning, take a lunch break, and then get back at it until my husband comes home from work.



Is there anything on your writing desk is a must have for you before you can write? Say a favorite pen? A stuffy? Your favorite coffee mug?

             A couch and coffee. And Diet Coke for when I hit my coffee wall.



Where do your ideas come from and when do you get them? 
             
Ideas always come from ‘what if’ situations that can pop into your head at anytime. Usually when I can’t get to a pen or my cell.




What did you do before you were a writer?
             
I was a part of some really fun morning shows on different radio stations across the country and sometimes I really miss it.



Who is your biggest cheerleader?
             
My husband. I could have never written any of these books without his help and encouragement. He is my Dean J



How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
             
If a book really strikes a chord with someone, they usually leave a review or tell their friends, which is extremely helpful. 

I remember a Facebook message from a reader saying she had just recommended FI1 to her mom. My jaw dropped. I mean, I still haven’t told my mom the names of any of my books. She would have a church lady heart attack! (i.e. Ben’s mom in Brooke & Ben: Before Fate Interrupted…) 

But every author loves hearing from people who have enjoyed their books.



What TV shows are you watching right now?
             
I love so many shows right now and I don’t think any of them are on network television. 

Shows like AHS: Coven, SOA, The Witches of Eastwick, Betrayal, Revenge, Hart of Dixie and I can’t wait for the second season of Orange is the New Black.



If you were one of your characters in your books, which one would you be and why?

I’m probably a cross between Evy & Brooke. I have some of Evy’s big heart and some of Brooke’s big mouth. 

I wish I had their boobs.






Any big news?
             
Fate Interrupted 3 will be out this winter! 

And I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. And thank you for the interview, Angie!

(Oh, it was my pleasure Kaitlyn. You rocked it!)


Monday, November 25, 2013

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING ROUTE: Mostly Pros and No Many Cons

 Many of you know that I am revising my latest book, ANIMALIA. And during this process, I have been asked many times, "Why don't you self-publish?" Well I'm going to answer that question and hopefully a few more.

So why don't I self-publish. The answer is first, I want to see if I can do it the traditional way. I want to see if my ideas and writing are good enough to snag the interest of an agent, and then a publisher and an editor. 

And honestly self-publishing scares me. There's so much you have to know, to learn, and to do that I know I would stop writing for a time in order to learn it all. I'd have to promote myself. Where? How? I'd have to learn that too.


When it comes down to it, I am a writer, not an editor, not a publisher, not a promoter, not a distributor. I just want to write.


But maybe the most compelling reason I am going the traditional route is an email I received from my mentor. I will list the important parts below.

Here's what he said:

  • An agent will find you the right publisher, and when dealing with that publisher, will not only try to get you a bigger advance--but will try to nail down a two or three book deal, giving you momentum, cash, and confidence.  


  • An agent will know how to work the contract--given the publisher--finessing the sub right: movie, audio, e-book, etc.  Agents actually do earn their money.  It's to their benefit, of course, to make the best deal for you.

  •         A publisher wants every book to succeed, and they'll pair you with an editor who will push you to develop the novel even more than you can imagine, and produce the best version of it--work on the novel hardly stops when the deal is signed.  

  • A publisher shepherds the book all the way through to a finished version, from developmental drafts, to ms. copy, to copy-editing, etc.  It's painstaking and hard work.

  •         It's important that your book appear on a kids' list. Your book needs to get to the right people--the reps who know how to sell kids books and to whom, the reviewers who can best help the book, and those contests and awards that can really help a book take off.   


  • Perhaps mostly importantly of all for kids' books, they'll help you get to the librarians.  Libraries are a huge part of the kids' world, not only the sheer number of books kids librarians buy, but getting those books into the hands of readers who will then use word of mouth, etc.  It's a vital link for kids' books.

  •  Now, to the money.  Yes, under an alternative deal, you might, as the author, get more $ per book sold than with a traditional publisher.  But you will, I assure you, sell far fewer books.  Agents and publishers do so much more than most people think.  And what they do makes a huge difference.


So there you have it from my mentor to you as to why I will be traditionally publishing. Choose wisely my fellow writers. And know what you are getting yourself into whichever route you decide.


Good luck!
Write~on,
Angie