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Character Wounds ~ Five Powerful Tools for Writers

Query.Sign.Submit. with Patricia Nelson

Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. Agency policy is to respond to all queries. If you haven’t heard from her within four weeks of sending a query, your email might have gotten caught by the spam filter - please resend!

To connect with and learn more about Patricia . . .

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

literary agent and authorNow for Patricia’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Definitely make sure that your query is polished, but I do think that it’s possible for a writer to focus too much attention on the query letter. Remember that a query is necessary to catch an agent’s attention, but it is not the end product in and of itself – the book is. I think sometimes writers make the mistake of endlessly revising their query and first 10 pages at the expense of polishing the full manuscript, perhaps because it (understandably) seems like a more manageable project to tackle. Don’t let revising your query letter bring the rest of your writing to a halt – you can write the most perfect query, but the book itself still needs to live up to that promise.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

In general, I make it a point to read a query all the way through. However, there are certain kinds of stories that I’m not looking for right now – for example, it’s unlikely that I would be drawn to represent a YA novel about vampires at this particular moment, given the current market – and other storylines that I know that I’m just not the right agent for in general – e.g. plots that center on sexual violence tend not to be for me. (I would have missed out on GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for sure!) Usually I can tell if a query is pitching one of these “not right for me at this time” stories fairly early on. I also might stop reading a query before the end if the writing itself is extremely clunky: poorly constructed sentences, multiple misused words, etc.

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

Yes, I have replied with a Revise & Resubmit in instances where I loved both the hook and the writing, but felt that something wasn’t quite clicking with the story – usually these are cases where the plot or pacing isn’t quite tight enough yet. When I do offer an R&R, I’ll usually send substantial notes for the author to work from… and I am always really hoping that the revisions will pan out and that when the next draft turns up in my inbox I’ll fall in love! That doesn’t always happen, but if I respond with an R&R, it means that I genuinely believe that the book could get to a point where I would want to offer representation.


What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

Waiting is always nerve wracking! If I’ve offered representation, it means that I’ve really connected to a book, and I want the chance to be a part of that writer’s journey to publication. Just imagine the butterflies that you feel when you’ve just sent off a query to your first choice agent – waiting to hear back after offering representation, the tables have turned, and I’m feeling that exact same feeling.

Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

When I offer representation, my hope is always that we are beginning a relationship that will last for the duration of the author’s career. It typically makes sense for an author to start working on a new book while the first is out on submission (keeping busy can keep you from going crazy over what can be a long process!), so it’s likely that we would start discussing a next project before the book that I offered on has even sold.

Once a writer has signed with you, what’s the next step?

I’m a fairly editorial agent, so once I’ve signed an author the first thing I’ll do is carefully reread the manuscript, making comments in-text and then writing up an editorial letter suggesting revisions. Depending on how much work a novel needs to get in the absolute best shape possible, we might go back and forth on a couple rounds of revisions, or we might move on right away to prepping the submission.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

This is up to the writers – some people like to see all correspondence from editors, and others would find this experience discouraging or even demoralizing. I’ll tend to explicitly ask what the author prefers before we even go out on submission.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

If the feedback from editors is all skewing in the same direction and it’s looking like we’ll need to go out on a second round, I’ll likely have a conversation with the author about whether the passes from editors collectively point to something that we feel could and should be shifted, or whether we just haven’t yet found the right home for the book.

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

It’s always okay to check in! I believe that if you don’t feel comfortable checking in with your agent (and confident that you’ll get a quick response), the relationship isn’t working as it should be.

Thanks, Patricia!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener!

Posted October, 2014 – Always check for current info and guidelines.

Five Powerful Tools for Writers

Whether you’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or just want some new writing tools to help things along, here are some great ones to try.

1. Scrivener – Well come on, you knew I’d say that first, right? If you’ve never used this amazing program, or have been putting off trying it out, now’s the time to dive in. Head over to our Getting Started with Scrivener post for a step-by-step guide. And if you want some tips and tricks to get even more out of the program, check out the Scrivener posts under Tools for Writers.

snapshots 3

2. Save the Cat – Plotter, pantster, somewhere in between? The Save the Cat method by Blake Snyder is one everyone can use to structure a story and adjust as you go along. It’s written for screenwriters, but works for novels too. On our Graphic Organizers page, you’ll find a couple Save the Cat Beat Sheet templates as well as an Excel doc that will calculate which pages things should be happening on. If you’re not familiar with it, I’d recommend checking out the website and reading the first Save the Cat book.

3. HivewordHiveword is a great tool for laying out the scenes in your story. You input notes on your scenes including characters, plotlines, and settings. You can then sort by any of the above, list scenes in order or filter by things like POV and plotline, and use the scene sorter to rearrange your scenes. And it’s all free at


4. Pinterest – Whether you just need a little inspiration or you want to build a board about your story, don’t forget about Pinterest as a writing tool. When you need a break, or you’re stuck on an element of your story, sometimes exploring the visual makes a big difference.


5. Pro Writing Aid – You probably won’t need this until you’re finished with your draft, but it’s a big help and a huge timesaver. You can copy and paste a chapter or two at a time onto their website at ProWritingAid to find things like overused words, repeated words and phrases, and grammar issues. The paid version (well worth it in my opinion) gives you a Word plug-in that lets you make changes right in your Word doc, saving even more time.

pro writing aid

Now you’re armed with some top-notch tools to take your writing to the next level. Have fun!

   *Illustration by duchessa.

Research agents in Query.Sign.Submit. interviews
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About the Author :

IMG_8578Dee Romito is an elementary teacher, freelance educational writer, and children’s/young adult author represented by Uwe Stender. Her middle grade debut, SUMMER BUCKET LIST will be published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2015.

Connect with Dee: 

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Tumblr ~ Goodreads

Click here to subscribe to her newsletter.

How to Add Depth to Your Protagonist

Guest post by Angela Ackerman

I love it when a great story idea grips me. Often, it starts with one small thing…a sound or a flash image. Sometimes I’ll get both, something utterly sensory that sends a thrill through me, like the ominous flutter of a plastic grocery bag caught in a tree branch on a windy day. Immediately I’ll start to “know” things. There’s water nearby. A dead body lays in the reeds, a teenage girl. A boy with find her, one who has lost the ability to speak. Snippets trickle in, clues of the story ahead, of what is to come. Excitement builds. I’m sure it’s a similar process for many of you.

There’s always the temptation to rush head first down the rabbit hole, to write that first scene, the one where the mute boy discovers the girl’s body. To leap in and describe it all—how the light dapples the water, the warmth of the sun, the paleness of flesh devoid of life. But the truth is, I’m not ready to write. I shouldn’t write. Because even if I know exactly how the scene will go, what the male hero will do, how he will drag the body onto the bank, hoping, praying the girl is still alive, I don’t know anything yet about who he really is.

The protagonist is the true heart of a story. The immediate events around him—discovering a dead body, pulling it from the river—will keep a reader glued to the page at the start, but the compulsion to read on will fade if something deeper isn’t introduced. What keeps people reading isn’t intense action scenes, but rather the emotional component of the hero’s connection to what is happening, and how it affect him on the inside.

Some assume that emotions are sort of standard…that this situation would make someone scared and that situation will bring them joy. But it really is so much more complex than that. Each person in real life is a complicated and unique being, shaped by their past, molded by what life had thrown their way and how they have coped with challenges, both good and bad. They have motivations for everything they do. People have fears, they have worries, and deeply embedded emotional wounds that mean certain events and situations act as triggers. These triggers may evoke much different emotional reactions (both type and intensity) than they would for someone else.

People have vastly complex personalities, including flaws which have emerged as a type of “emotional armor” as a result of their hurts and fears. And while they believe these negative traits keep them from being rejected, disappointed or hurt again, they actually hold them back from becoming someone stronger, more self assured and complete. Luckily, every person also has a positive side to their personality—morals and character strengths that see them past adversity, helping them achieve their goals, build better relationships and reinforce their individual identity.

The question becomes, if each of us is this complex…don’t we want to read about characters just as layered and meaningful? Of course the answer is yes, but this leads to one more question…to get to know our character in depth, where does a writer start?

You’ll notice this post is peppered with links…why not follow a few to gain a deeper insight about some of these important elements of character building? Then, when you have a deeper understanding of what shapes a character, try out some of the tools below.


The Reverse Backstory Tool: a visual aid to help you see how your hero’s specific attributes, flaws, emotional wound (and lie the character believes about himself), and greatest needs all tie into revealing inner motivation to achieve the outer goal.

Protagonist Goal Checklist: a great Character Arc checklist that asks all the important questions regarding your hero’s pursuit of his goal.

Character Profile Questionnaire: not your average height, weight, hair color type questions...instead, dig deeper into who your character is by asking probing questions about his fears, morals, secrets, emotional wounds, special skills and interests.

A List of 638 Positive and Negative Character Traits: a great starting place to think about how to blend unusual traits to create a truly memorable and unique character.

Character Attribute Target Tool: visualize your hero’s best qualities as they fall into the 4 categories of Positive Traits: Moral-focused, Achievement-focused, Interactive-focused and Identity-Focused, building a well-rounded hero who is capable of winning the day.

Character Flaw Pyramid Tool: organize your hero’s flaws, from minor to fatal, and brainstorm how these flaws manifest through behaviors, especially when stress or fear enters the picture.

Michael Hauge’s 6 Stage Plot Structure for a Character’s Inner Journey: like a bit of structure with your Character Arc? Hit all the highlights for struggle and growth to create a satisfying internal journey.

These tools and links should help you dig deep into your protagonist and his backstory, helping you to better understand what makes him tick, what his demons are, and what emotional wounds from his past they must overcome to succeed.

Happy brainstorming!

image Angela Ackerman is a writing coach and co-author of three bestselling resources, The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. A proud indie author, her books are sourced by US universities and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors and psychologists around the world. Angela can be found at the popular site, Writers Helping Writers, which specializes in building innovative tools for writers that cannot be found elsewhere.


Query.Sign.Submit. with Roseanne Wells


Roseanne represents adult, young adult, and select middle grade fiction, as well as nonfiction. See her guidelines for more specific interests.

She responds to queries that she’s interested in. When an author queries, they will receive an email stating the time frame for requesting more material. It can vary, but she tries to keep it to 8 weeks or less. If you have not heard from her by then, it’s a pass.

To connect with and learn more about Roseanne . . .

The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency

literary agent and author


How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

I go in the order that I receive them. If I see something that speaks to me, I will open it right away, but I try to read in submission order. I will occasionally scan them as a whole to look for junk mail and invites to LinkedIn or Twitter.

If the query sounds generic or familiar, I will usually skip down to the pages. But if the query is great, I get really excited to read more. Which is why reading the submission guidelines is so important! If those pages that I’m so excited about aren’t there, it’s an opportunity missed.

Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?

I really appreciate a nudge with partials and fulls. I don’t request partials unless the material comes from a contest where partials are part of the guidelines. If I want to read beyond the pages with the query, I want to be able to read all the way through. I get frustrated when I want to read page 51, but it isn’t there! I won’t make it through every manuscript to the end, but I like having that option. Because I’m reading mostly fulls, and I try to give some feedback as to why I am passing, it takes a little more time.

I like knowing when you’ve received an offer of rep with queries, but it’s considered above and beyond in my book. I get irked when someone doesn’t tell me they have or accepted an offer when I have the full, but that doesn’t happen very often. With the amount of resources available, I find astute authors (such as your readers!) know the etiquette of submitting.

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

I do offer Revise & Resubmits; I’ve gotten clients that way. I think it’s valuable to see your notes in action, and how well the author absorbed them and took them to heart. I mostly do R&Rs when the writing is really good, and the voice is there, but something isn’t quite working. I also do R&Rs when I want to see if our editorial styles will match. If I know it’s going to be an intensive edit from the start, I will look for the edits to be fruitful right away. If they aren’t, then it’s not a good match.


Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

I am looking for long-term, career authors. One of the most important questions when I offer is, “What are you working on right now? What is next?” I want to see that you have skill, stamina, and more than one story to tell.

What is the revision process like when you’re working with a client?

I call my editorial style problem-finding instead of problem-solving. I am the fresh eyes that the manuscript needs, and I will scout for the things that aren’t working, on a macro level (plot, character, pacing, overall appeal) and micro level (grammar, punctuation, word choice, etc). I will also suggest solutions to those problems, and the author and I will find the best solution together.

Do you want to see sample chapters as a client writes or do you prefer to wait until the manuscript is finished? Or is it up to the client?

I like to see manuscripts when they are finished. I also tell my clients that if they are having trouble with a section or chapter, send it and we can work it out together. I have clients who want the privacy to have a few drafts to themselves before showing me, a few clients who want to show me every single version, and some who want to work through some scenes and then show me. I try to adapt style to my client’s needs, so that we can get to the good stuff—the revision work!


At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

When the author and I see a trend in the responses from editors, we start to consider making revisions. If several editors are naming the same reason for passing, they are giving us valuable information on where to start an edit to make the book stronger. If there’s no real consensus, then it’s more likely personal opinion or what works for that imprint/house.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

There are several steps between an editor’s interest and a deal. An editor will often ask for peer reads, so she can gauge how others feel about the project as well. Then s/he will get the book on the acquisition schedule, and then s/he presents the book to the acquisition meeting. This includes editing, marketing, publicity, and art departments, and sometimes production as well. They talk about the merits of the book, what markets/demographics it will appeal to, their profit and loss statements, how similar books have done for the imprint/house, how they will market it. If they think it will work, they present deal points. The agent and editor negotiate the deal points, and then the editor or contracts department sends the contract. The agent and editor/contracts person negotiates the contract, and then the deal is signed.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Write! I think one of the best solutions for submission anxiety is to work on other projects. Not the sequel to the book or the companion novella, but a different project. If it’s the next book we want to sell, great; if not, let’s discuss why. It can be an opportunity to start that next project, or working on craft, write in another genre, or work on articles or blog posts supporting the client’s work. What matters is that it helps the author feel in control by being productive, during a process that is out of their hands.

How much contact do you have with a client when he/she is out on submission? Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?

I send updates to clients as they come in, and I encourage clients to stay in touch if they are feeling nervous (and then get back to writing your no-anxiety project). I appreciate a check-in from clients, and if I feel like we haven’t talked in a while, I will send a no-news-but-how-are-you email. I think communication, even if there’s no news and you just want to send cat videos and talk about True Blood or Veronica Mars, is important.

Thank you, Roseanne!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener!

Posted October, 2014 – Always check for current info and guidelines.

Teen Speak - Mad

Back to Buzzfeed posts, the word “mad.” 

TeenSpeak_zps9e806523Do not use this.

Rarely will a teenager use this in today’s day and age.

Maybe it happened in the 80s, but not today.

I’m sorry, Buzzfeed post, you are mistaken.*

But, to explain, the Buzzfeed post says “mad” can be used in a sentence such as: “Yo, Sarah is, like, mad chill. She’s one of the coolest chicks I know. I want to ask her to prom.” I’m sorry, but no one says “mad chill” anymore. No one even says “chill” anymore unless telling someone to “Chill out.”

And for that matter, Buzzfeed post, rarely is the term “coolest chick” used anymore, either. Do boys still call girls “chick”? Maybe in other parts of the country/world, but not where I live.

So don’t use any of these debunked words. You’ll be better off without them.

EXCEPTION: I will still occasionally hear someone say “I’ve got mad skills” or some such thing, but that’s a rare teenager.

* Please note: This is all in my experience. So maybe teenagers in Florida or Nebraska say this, but none of the teenagers I know do. After all, words and expressions can change everywhere in the country, but that’s a post for another day.

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Query.Sign.Submit. with Anna Roberto

Anna is an Associate Editor at Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. She is interested in picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction tastes are very selective. She loves realistic contemporary, suspense, sci-fi, and LGBTQ.

To connect with and learn more about Anna . . .


literary agent and author Anna will be sharing her insight on the SUBMIT phase, from the editor side of things!

What do you love most about your job? Was it in your career plan or did it happen along the way?

Easy. Collaborating with authors! It’s amazing the kind of solutions and ideas you come up with when you have two minds working at it. Obviously, the author is the brain behind the entire operation, but I love to throw (mediocre) ideas at them to really spark their creativity—to make them see things from different angles that maybe they didn’t think of before.

I always knew there’d be a tremendous amount of back-and-forth with revisions, but I didn’t expect it to morph into this great building of ideas and brainstorming sessions. So wonderful!

What is the hardest part about being an editor?

I can only read so fast, so time is an editor’s enemy, for sure. But I think the absolute hardest thing for me is losing a project that I really wanted. As an editor, you’re the champion for this project. You pitch it, you put your heart and soul into screaming how great it is from the rooftops to the sales team and others. So to do all that work and have someone outbid you, it’s more upsetting than I ever expected.

Is there anything that would make a submission an automatic no?

Forced, inorganic voice. When I’m reading a YA and I can immediately tell it’s an adult trying to be a teen, I want to scream. Using slang (ugh, dated slang!) doesn’t make a voice teen. Teen voice is so much more than using funny or silly words. Honestly, it’s one of those skills you just can’t teach.

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

Our IT department has said to me on more than one occasion that I have the most extensively organized inbox they’ve ever seen. Not that you could tell by the state of my desk… When an email thread is wrapped up and resolved, I file it into the designated folder of my archives. I have a folder for every department, every event, and every author. Everything ever.

For projects in limbo, they stay directly in my inbox with a color-coded labeling system. I tag rush reads with a purple tag as well as the red tag (but red tags are for anything urgent as well). Green tags are for freelancer projects, orange tags are for mailing projects, and blue tags are for intern projects. Then I always use the flag and reminder features to keep me on point with deadlines. These colored tags and reminders are also built into my calendar so I know when revisions are due back from authors as well as other time sensitive jobs!

Did I overdo it….? If only I was this organized in my personal life!

What is the revision process like when you’re working with an author?

After the contract is finalized and squared away, it’s time to make a book!

My usual process is to give the author a big welcome, welcome to the Feiwel and Friends family! Shortly after, I send an over-arching editorial letter with my main plot and character concerns. I point out pages and passages that need attention. I often make suggestions to help find solutions to areas causing concern, though, I never expect or demand that the writer do exactly what I say. After all, I’m not the writer. I offer suggestions just to kick off the brainstorming—to get the creative wheels a turnin’.

After the author takes the editorial letter, sits with it, and reworks the manuscript, they send it back to me. At that point I start to read through it again. If I see that most of my concerns were resolved, I start line editing. If it’s still not there, I do another round of edits. If it’s onto line edits, that’s just where I take a very close look at each line to make sure everything is smooth. For instance, if a character does something or says something that goes against the character as the author has shaped them—I call attention to it. This is also my chance to simply get excited and act like a total fan. I still have very visceral reactions to reading things, and I cannot breeze through a manuscript without saying how much I love something! After all, it’s why I bought the book in the first place! One time, I drew giant hearts all over a manuscript because it was simply the most romantic scene on earth. As an editor, I believe it’s just as important to point out those bits that made you fall in love with the story as well as those bits that need some TLC.

So once the editorial process is nearly to an end, I submit it to copyediting and start to have meetings with the designer to talk about cover concepts!

What would you love to find in your inbox?

The best and worst question! I’m a firm believer that sometimes you just don’t know what you want until it’s in front of you, but here’s what’s been on my mind lately…

Sweet picture books that aren’t too sappy. Quirky picture books that tell evergreen themes in new and exciting ways. I definitely am more humor-based with picture books.

I’d love a coming of age middle grade with a fresh plot and a charming voice. If Rebecca Stead and Judy Blume were to collide…

A YA that involves a boy and girl who were best friends since childhood but now find strain in their relationship as they navigate high school.

A YA or MG about sisters (no one has to die, either!). I find sibling, especially sister relationships, to be a treasure trove of material.

A YA suspense/thriller à la Lois Duncan. Or even a thrilling sci-fi.

An LGBTQ novel that isn’t about coming out—so much territory to explore here!

A YA or MG novel that involves a character who is out of their element. I love the idea of a family having to pick up and move to Alaska and find their feet as they learn to live off the grid.

I love voices that are organic and believable. I do tend to live in the realistic contemporary genre. Stories that have any combination of humor, heart, or quirkiness. Commercial or light literary styles are welcome!

Thank you, Anna!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener!

Posted October, 2014 – Always check for current info and guidelines.

Query.Sign.Submit. with Paula Stokes

Paula is the author of VENOM, BELLADONNA, and STARLING (writing as Fiona Paul), THE ART OF LAINEY, the e-novella INFINITE REPEAT, and five more books coming from HarperTeen and Tor Teen. She is represented by Jennifer Laughran at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


Connect with Paula . . .





literary agent and authorNow for Paula’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Stop stressing so much about the query letter. It’s the pasted pages of your manuscript that really matter. If you read through the Queryshark archives or use a query template posted by an agent/former agent like Nathan Bransford and the end result tells what your book is about, that’s probably good enough. Is it great if you can infuse your query with voice or write it in some magical way that makes it stand out from the masses? Sure, that’s awesome. But query writing and novel writing are two totally different skills and a good query writer is not necessarily a good storyteller. It’s more important for the beginning of your manuscript to stand out.

What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

Here’s what I was looking for:

  1. An agent who would be honest with me about my manuscript/career/sales/etc. even when it hurt. In essence, someone I could be honest with and trust completely.
  2. An agent with a proven sales record of books in my genre.
  3. An agent who was knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and who had good working relationships with editors at major houses and smaller presses.
  4. An agent who wasn’t extremely editorial. Not that I won’t do all the revision that’s needed, and then some, but I’ve heard stories of authors routinely doing upward of six or seven heavy revisions with their agents before going out on sub. I think that might kill my joy for a book.
  5. An agent who was attentive to me, regardless of my sales status. Someone who was going to respond to emails within a few days and new submissions within a few weeks. Someone who would take the time to answer questions about contracts, foreign rights, etc.

I realize a lot of those things are hard to research before querying, but they’re definitely things I would think about before signing with an agent. And if you’re too scared to ask a potential agent these questions, ask him or her for client email addresses so you can contact other authors for input. (And work on getting less scared—this isn’t a business for the fainthearted).

What was your method for querying? Small batches? Query widely? Wait for feedback?

My first two manuscripts are drawer manuscripts and I only queried one agent with each of them—both times I brought my first 5 pages to a conference and an agent full-requested based on the sample. Wow, I’m a total rock star, right? ;-) No, not actually. I learned how to write compelling sentences before I learned how to write a compelling plot, and both of these stories were kindly rejected by the requesting agents, who both told me to keep trying. I was offered a revise/resubmit on the second manuscript, but I knew the story was fundamentally flawed so I opted to write a new book instead. I guess I knew my third book was the charm because I sent it to four agents, including both of the agents who had previously rejected me. I got three full requests and ultimately signed with Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Lit. I think I would have kept subbing in small batches if I’d needed to.


How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

Jenn is mildly editorial. She doesn’t just send stuff out as is, but she doesn’t send back the manuscript full of margin bubbles or line-edited tracked changes either. Basically she either calls or emails with a short list of issues—plot holes, character inconsistencies, confusing parts, etc.—and tells me to address them or to justify to her why they don’t need to be addressed. Admittedly, this is MY experience with her and I know of people who got no revision notes from her or multiple sets, but generally she describes herself as “not very editorial” and I would agree with this assessment.

Did you have any previous contact with editors that you shared with your agent? For example, from conferences or workshops.

Yes. One editor had seen one of my drawer novels at a conference and one had seen THE ART OF LAINEY and my agent knew about both of these. We opted to send LAINEY to one of the editors but not to the other, mostly because the second editor was at the same publisher I was doing my work-for-hire books through and Jenn felt it could be potentially awkward to have two different editors at the same house when it came to future submissions. That being said, if I had felt really strongly about it or if we hadn’t found a buyer for THE ART OF LAINEY, we might have shown the MS to the second editor at a later point.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

Oh, such a good question. For me, it really depends. The usual procedure would be to send her a short list of ideas before I even start writing and see which ones appeal to her. I generally have way more ideas than I can write—maybe seven or eight books I’d really like to work on at any given time. So I might send her seven or eight short query letter-length pitches and get her opinion. If she likes some of the ideas that I’m dying to write, I just go ahead and write those and hold off on the other projects. If she isn’t feeling something and I really want to write it, I might turn my paragraph pitch into a short 3-4 page synopsis or else write 10-20 pages and ask her opinion. Once I wrote an entire book without telling her, kind of because it was an experimental project I was writing just for fun and I didn’t want anyone to say anything that might dissuade me from finishing it. That project actually sold to Tor Teen as VICARIOUS, but if Jenn had hated it or felt it wasn’t ever going to be submission-worthy, I would have asked for her blessing to turn it into an adult novel or put it out as an indie-published book.


What is a typical first round like once a writer goes on submission?

Oh, man. It can vary so widely. With the VENOM (work-for-hire) books, those were attached to Paper Lantern Lit, Lauren Oliver’s book development company that was just getting started, so it felt like everyone was dying to work with us. I think VENOM had nine offers or something in the span of a week. THE ART OF LAINEY took a few weeks to be rejected by everyone in the first round and sold a couple of months later in the second round. The most recent project I sold, a duology called VICARIOUS, took about three months to be passed on by people in the first round and then another three months to sell in the second round. One thing I’ve learned from my own and my friends’ experiences--and editors might disagree with me but this is what I’ve seen anecdotally--it seems like debut manuscripts are read and decided upon much more quickly than second contract manuscripts. Which makes sense, if you think about it. A debut author is like a shiny new thoroughbred running its first race—anything can happen.

Do you see the feedback from editors?

My agent is really cool about considering each client’s wish when it comes to this. I don’t need to see generic “not for me” rejections, but I do like to see the editors’ words if there starts to be a pattern. Jenn will cut and paste relevant or helpful notes from editors—whether or not she agrees with their assessment-- so I can see trends. There are certain times when emotionally I’m just like “I don’t want to know” and other times when I’m like “I NEED to know” and I would imagine most authors are similar. She’s really good about working with all of us fragile little bunnies ;-) I never feel like I can’t check in with her, but I generally won’t check in more than once a month. You need to remember that editors’ first priorities are to the books they already bought. In addition to editing those, they’re also attending meetings and conferences, answering author questions, working with design teams and doing a ton of other day-to-day work. No wonder it sometimes takes them weeks or months to get caught up on submissions.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Write. More. Books. I wrote THE ART OF LAINEY at the same time I was writing VENOM (as Fiona Paul.) LAINEY went on sub in December of 2011 and sold in early May of 2012. In those five months, I wrote drafts of BELLADONNA and LIARS, INC. In June of 2012, I started writing STARLING and VICARIOUS. Despite keeping up that pace of writing/revising/selling 2+ books a year for four years now, at no point have I ever made more money writing than I made as a full-time nurse. (And when you figure in the hours spent and lack of benefits, I might not have ever made half as much.) Sure, you can plan to sell your first book for six figures, and I know people who that has happened to, but for every one of those people there are at least 200 people who don’t land a huge deal out of the gate. If you want to make a career of this, you should keep moving forward. Bonus: once you have a second book in progress, it will keep you from obsessively worrying about the first book and take some of the pressure off how Book #1 performs.

Thank you, Paula!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Posted September 2014

Query.Sign.Submit. with Kat Ellis


Kat is the author of BLACKFIN SKY, available in the UK from Firefly Press and in the US from Running Press Teen! She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency.

Out now...

Connect with Kat . . .



literary agent and author Now for Kat’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


How did you keep track of your queries?

I made up a nifty spreadsheet with columns showing the name of the agent, agency, stated response times, whether they were a ‘no response means no’ agent, and a whole bunch of other headings. It was so much easier than having to check back through my emails all the time. I know others find things like Query Tracker really useful, but I prefer to keep my own systems for stuff like this.

Did you ever have a Revise & Resubmit? What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to take one on?

I had a couple, actually. The first was for a manuscript that’s now sitting in a drawer (so you can guess how that turned out). There was a big romantic element to the story, and the agent wanted me to scale it waaaaay back. Editorially speaking, it was a perfectly sound suggestion, but my gut told me it wasn’t right for my story. Even though I did the revision, my heart wasn’t in it, and I think that showed.

The second time around it went so much better – I knew as soon as I got the revision notes for that manuscript that I was on the same wavelength as the agent, that she really GOT my story, and I definitely wanted to work with her. That agent was Molly Ker Hawn, and I was lucky enough to sign with her after completing the R&R.

My R&R experiences gave me a great insight into what the agent’s vision for my work would be if I signed with her, and that any changes had to feel right to ME for them to work. So I guess those are the key things I think you should consider if you get offered an R&R.

If querying was a long time ago for you, what do you remember most?

I had my phone set up with a special ringtone for whenever I had an email response to query, and that sound made me crap my pants every. single. time. My co-workers even recognized that BEEP-BOOP-BEEP-BOOP ringtone. The good thing was that I didn’t crap my pants for every single spam email I got, just the important ones – but I used to have nightmares about that sound.


Are there any specific questions you’d suggest writers ask an offering agent during “The Call”?

Firstly, make a list of what you want to ask, because if you’re anything like me your mind will go blank the second you answer the call. Apart from the usual list of questions, a couple of key things you might want to ask are: how does the agent plan to pitch your book? Do they have a list of editors/publishers in mind? If you’ve already done revisions for them, will they want you to do more before going out on submission? And if you are someone who plans to write across age categories (for example, if you write YA but have a burning desire to write picture books as well), will the agent represent ALL your work?

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

My agent is very editorial, which I love, and was one of the key things that made me jump at the chance to sign with her.

At what point do you share new story ideas with your agent?

I usually run ideas past her before I start writing a new manuscript. Molly knows much more than I do about what’s selling and what’s a no-go with editors, so it’s in my interest to get her feedback before I invest months and months in a novel that isn’t going to sell.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

I do. I think I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism, and any sensitivity is far outweighed by this insane little voice in my head going, “Has she read it yet? What did she think? What did she say?” If an editor thinks my MC is unlikeable/prose is clunky/dialogue is unrealistic, etc. – I’d always rather know because I can’t improve if I don’t see where my faults lie. And whether an editor makes an offer or not, if they’ve taken the time to give me feedback, that is a huge boon.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

First, you dance like nobody’s watching. Then you wait anxiously while they run it past their acquisitions board, and you either get an offer (cue more dancing), or a rejection (cue macarena of sadness).

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Write your next book. Everybody says it, because it’s true. If your book sells, then you’ll probably be tied up with edits in a couple of months, so you can use the submission window to get a book in the bank. If it doesn’t sell, then you have a book in the bank to go right back out on sub with. And you have the added bonus of a distraction from all the submission angst. SCORE.

Thank you, Kat!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Find out about agent-judged contests

Posted September 2014

Query.Sign.Submit. with Carly Watters

Carly Watters_ agent

Carly represents Literary and Commercial Fiction, World Literature, Women's Fiction, Literary Thrillers, LGBT, New Adult, high-concept Young Adult, high-concept Picture Books, and up-market nonfiction in Health, Wellness, Memoir, Humour, Pop Science and Pop Psychology.

She responds to all queries when they come in to let you know they were received and when it’s a pass.

To connect with and learn more about Carly . . .


literary agent and authorNow for Carly’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


Is there anything you see way too much of in the queries you receive?

Apologetic tone. Never apologize for querying an agent! We want to look at queries. We want to find great new talent. Be strong in your tone so we know you take yourself seriously so we should too.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

These days I don't read them all the way through. I’m looking for key words like family secrets, domestic thriller, women’s fiction, book club book, contemporary YA—I like high stakes fiction. I like the query to start with the genre and word count (over 100k or under 60k and I pass). I like the query to be short and to the point with three-paragraph structure (hook and intro, sales-y synopsis, author bio).

I stop when I don't see the genre I’m looking for, the book is too short/long, or the query language is too muddled. I need a query to tell me what the book is about, not run me in circles reading between the lines. We don't have all day—get to the hook. Why should an agent care about your story and characters?

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

I do this when I’ve fallen for something, but it’s not ready yet and I can see how to ‘fix’ it. Sometimes I’ll enjoy something but it’s not for me because I don't have a clear vision about how to edit it into what I want it to be. However, when I do love something, but see where it needs work, I will offer an R&R and ask the author to complete the edits if they agree with my vision. I usually tell them that if they receive an offer of rep in the meantime please let me know. I don’t do R&Rs lightly. I save those for projects I think I can work on. It takes time out of my day to type up R&R notes and I don’t get anything out of it per se. It takes time away from my clients. So I do them sparingly.


What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

I love this question because it’s always so anxious! Writers think they’ve got it bad, agents put their hearts on the line and often times we’re competing with other agent friends/colleagues for the same book. We only offer rep when we love something so imagine falling in love and being told either a) they feel the same way or b) they’re going in another direction. It can be exhilarating or devastating. Both have happened to all agents. We have to get used to letting some go. I’ve gone through periods where I haven’t found anything in the slush for 6-8 months and then I offer rep on something great and I lost it. But, on the flip side I’ve been the first pick of many clients and that’s so gratifying that they also feel we’d be a great fit.

How editorial are you?

Agents in general these days are very editorial. But I would put myself up there with being one of the most editorial. I’m still in the stage of my career where I am actively signing new clients from the slush pile which means they are rarely ever ‘perfect.’ I do everything from light edits to rounds of structural edits that take 6-8 months. If I believe in a book I will do everything in my power to make it saleable.

What is the revision process like when you’re working with a client?

It’s very collaborative. It’s their book, I’m a sounding board. However, I usually have very strong opinions about what will make it work for the market. Here’s my strategy: a client will send me their work, I will read through and do a big picture edit letter, then the author will go away and use my notes, and I’ll read it again. We do this until it’s down to the small things and then it’s ready. That can be weeks or months.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Yes. I am their representative in the industry, not the person who decides what to protect them from. In my opinion writers deserve to hear it because it’s their book. Feedback can be helpful because it can show a trend in how people are responding to plot, characters, voice etc. I think writers cringe when they hear it, but they’re better for it.

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Keep writing! Avoid social media stalking. But above all: keep writing. There is nothing more important than keeping busy and keeping that career going. Most editors, when they show interest, want to know what writers are working on next, so writing more is the next best thing to hearing submission news.

Once a writer has sold his/her first book, how is the next submission process different?

In many cases I try to do two-book deals for debut fiction authors so they have a home. In the rare case the author doesn’t find a home and the publisher does not offer on the option book, then we have to submit widely again. What an author needs is strong book sales, active readership/fans, social media presence, proof they are a great author to work with. But it all comes down to the quality of the book. Editors buy great books. So writers need to write great books—every time. Sometimes the history matters (book sales numbers) and sometimes it doesn’t (great sales).

Publishing is an industry that is filled with many unknowns. Every scenario is different. It’s an agent’s job to be the best advocate for their authors and be thinking one step ahead to have their client’s career goals in mind with every decision made.

Thank you, Carly!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Posted September 2014– Always check for current info and guidelines.

Teen Speak – I Can’t Even


Teen Speak Logo Now this is definitely a phrase I hear quite often, because I can’t even. I mean, it makes complete sense, right? Sometimes, there are just no words to describe what you’re trying to get across, hence why you simply blurt, “I can’t even.”

It’s definitely used when it comes to fandoms. According to the Buzzfeed post, teenagers use it when it comes to talking about swim practice after school and studying for a math test. In my experience, this would wind up with someone dropping a few f-bombs or some such swear word, not “I can’t even.”

In my experience, “I can’t even” is primarily used when extremely happy or sad about something, particularly characters in movies, TV shows, or books. For example, in recent Supernatural episodes, things haven’t been all that peachy for all the characters. At risk of spoilers, I won’t explain further, but let me just end with saying that I’ve said, “I can’t even” about a few of the poorer decisions Dean and Sam have made.

Does that make sense? More often than not, “I can’t even” is a sentence in and of itself.

NOTE: There will ALWAYS be exceptions. My experience is simply my experience. So if teenagers around you say/don’t say these things, then by all means, go ahead and use/don’t use them if they fit in your story.

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Teen Speak – Familial Terms


These terms are on the way out, I think, butTeen Speak Logo occasionally I still use them because…well, because they’re easier, I guess. 

The first word I want to discuss is “fam.” In short, it stands for “family.” I use this because the little voice in my head is lazy and so are my fingers. I don’t say it aloud, though, mind you.

In a sentence, it could look like: “I can’t hang out tonight. The fam is going out to dinner.”

Another familial term is “’rents.” In my opinion, this is also on the way out. It stands for “parents,” so if you hear someone say “The ’rents said I can’t go out tonight,” they’re saying that their parents won’t let them go out. (I think that’s fairly obvious, though.J)

Again, to reiterate my point, I never use these words aloud because my tongue has yet to get that lazy. But I’m sure many teenagers do.

NOTE: There will ALWAYS be exceptions. My experience is simply my experience. So if teenagers around you say/don’t say these things, then by all means, go ahead and use/don’t use them if they fit in your story.

About the Author :

Kate Kate Bucklein is a clumsy, nineteen-year-old writer of YA epic fantasy living in Northern Arizona, where they really do get snow and the occasional tumbleweed. She's a college sophomore working toward getting her degree in Global Affairs with an emphasis on Intelligence Analysis.

Connect with Kate:@KateBucklein

Five Questions with Marieke Nijkamp of DiversifYA


Marieke is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, and proud-to-be geek. She wants to grow up to be a time traveler, holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is more or less proficient in about a dozen languages.

In the midnight hours of the day she writes young adult stories (ranging from contemporary to fantasy) as well as the occasional middle grade adventure, and all her stories have a sprinkling of wonder to them. Website ~ Twitter

1. What is DiversifYA?

DiversifYA is an inclusive community where people share experiences and stories, all sorts of diversity and all marginalized experiences, in the hope that all of us who write will realize the world is much bigger than our little patch of earth. That we are diversity, that diversity is reality, and that one day our stories will reflect that.

2. What do you see as the solution? Is the burden on editors, marketers, or authors?

I believe it's a burden on all of us. Authors, editors, readers, marketers, agents, booksellers... basically, anyone involved in books. It's on authors to consider why their stories, if not diverse, are straight, white, able-bodied, middle class. After all, none of us live in completely homogeneous communities, so why should our characters? There's the, frankly rather disgusting, belief that books about marginalized characters are only for people with the same marginalized experience, whereas books with white/straight/able-bodied characters are somehow "neutral" and for all. We need to keep challenging that.

It's on the industry to actively seek out diversity, be willing to take risks, and recognize the privilege of the system. It's on librarians and booksellers to recognize that the readers are there and they to deserve to find themselves reflected in stories. It's on readers and on all of us to buy the books. Buy the books. Order them for your library. Spread the word. Support the authors. Tell bookstores, librarians, publishers that you want more. There is no louder message than that of actual sales.

This is also one of the reasons why We Need Diverse Books, of which I am proud to be one of the VPs, recently incorporated to become a non-profit. We were fortunate enough -- right place, right time -- to be able to amplify this diversity discussion, and we are set on creating real change, by offering book selling kits of bookstores and librarians, by organizing the US's first Diversity Festival, and by many, many more activities we'll be rolling out over the coming months.

3. A lot of people equate diversity with race specifically. How would you define it?

I would define diversity as including (but not limited to) LGBTQ*, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, social, and religious minorities. We absolutely need more racial diversity in our books, but we also need more bisexual characters, characters in wheelchairs, genderqueer characters, indigenous characters, and so on. And I truly believe that in this discussion we are stronger if we stand together, and be as inclusive as possible.

4. You recently spoke on a diversity-themed panel at BEA. What was that like?

Oh my goodness, it was the most magical experience! BookCon itself was overwhelming enough, but to see people line up for our panel an hour before it started and filling the room to the extent where we had to turn people away because we simply couldn't fit them in... it was beyond anything I'd dared hope for. And at the same time, being able to share a stage with so many AMAZING writers and diversity activists was a fantastic experience. And the energy in the room... Oh, I wish I could've bottled it for the darker days :) It was truly spectacular!

5. What would you say to an author who wants to add diversity but is worried about inadvertently offending people with the disability/of the race/in the community s/he is writing about?

You are going to offend someone. Deal with it. Learn from it. And do better next time.

Truth is, I see this comment a lot, and while I understand where people are coming from, I think we need to acknowledge that being able to say things like that is a privilege. Because frankly, it's not just about offending. Sure, I've read portrayals of queer or disabled characters that made me want to hurl a book across the room, but those are not the worst scenarios. It's a lot trickier having to deal with the real life consequences of bad portrayals. Having to explain to people that yes, you actually do have feelings, despite the fact that 90% of popular media portrays autistics as emotionless and that's their own frame of reference.

So if I can be blunt? Do your job. Do your research, and research extensively. Not just by reading the theories, but by talking to actual people, by asking them to read portrayals if you're worried about them. By reading first-person accounts. And by acknowledging that one experience is still not going to be more than one experience. You can't expect us to speak on behalf on our entire group anymore than you can. Someone else may, and most likely will, feel differently. But you can try hard and do your best.

And even then, you will offend someone.

Deal with it.

Learn from it.

And do better next time.

About the Author :

Jen Malone is a middle grade and young adult author jenwho spent a year traveling the world solo (favorite spot: Nepal), met her husband on the highway, and went into labor on Stevie Nick's tour bus. She's repped by the fantabulous Holly Root at The Waxman Leavell Literary Agency and her debut AT YOUR SERVICE is available from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIx with more titles soon to be released. 

Connect with Jen . . .
Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

Getting Started with Scrivener

Tools for Writers

My other tutorials are tips and tricks to get the most out of Scrivener’s features. But if you’ve never used Scrivener and need to learn how to set it up and get started writing, this is for you.

I’ve done my best to accommodate for both Windows and Mac users, but they can be very different at times.

Take it step by step. You can do it. :)

Step 1 – Starting a New Project

After you’ve download Scrivener (30 non-consecutive day free trial or paid version), open up the program.

Under “File” choose “New Project” and you’ll see the screen above. (Mac users, this screen might come up when you open the program.) Choose the type of project you’ll be working on, for example “Fiction” and then “Novel.” This will work for most fiction writers.

Name your project under “Save As” and use the “Browse” button (or “Where” on Mac) to set where it will save to.

Hit “Create.” You’ll see the instructions below, which explain how to get started if you’d like to read through them.


Step 2 – Setting Font & Spacing

There are a lot of things you can preset in Scrivener, but we’re going to keep it simple. (You are free to skip this section if you don’t mind the standard presets. Some of these will not stay put when you finish and compile your document, but it will make it easier while you write, IMO.)

Mac users – choose “Scrivener” and “Preferences.”

Windows users - Under “Tools” choose “Options.” You’ll get a screen like this.


Mac – Click “Formatting.”

Windows - Click “Editor” on the left and you’ll see this.

change font

We’re going to make sure the font and spacing are how you want them, so click the blue, italicized A at the top. (It won’t be blue for Mac users.)


Choose the font you want for your project. Windows users, click “OK.”

change font

Now click on the arrow to the right of where it says “1.0x” (or 1.2 for Mac) so we can change the spacing and indents. You’ll get a drop down menu.


Click “More” (“Other” for Mac) and you’ll get this window.


Change “First Line” to “0.50 inch(es).” This is called a hanging indent. YOU WILL NOT NEED TO USE THE TAB KEY when this is set. Simply type and hit enter when you want the next line indented. (For Mac, skip this step and see below.)

Change “Line Spacing” to “Double” and click “OK.” (Change “Line height multiple” to 2.0 for Mac)

Mac users, in the formatting window, move the top slide bar to between the 0 and the 1. Also check the box under “Scrivenings” for “Separate scrivenings” so you don’t get any extra line breaks.

Now your “Options” window should look like this.

double space

Windows users, click “ok.” Mac users, click “Use Formatting in Current Editor.”

Step 3 – Folders & Synopsis



Double click where is says “Manuscript” in the binder (to the left) and change it to your title. (If you have one!) Whenever you want to look at things in the whole project (word count, chapters in corkboard mode, etc.) you’ll want this selected.

Double click on the folder that says “Chapter”  and rename it if you’d like. It can either be “Chapter 1” or a heading for your chapter like “Fall.”

Now here’s how I do it, because I find it the easiest.

Create enough new chapters to get started or if you already have an outline, create the number you know you need. There are several ways to do this.

New folder

For Windows Users -

Option 1. Click the arrow to the right of the green plus sign and choose “New Folder.”

Option 2. Right click and choose “Duplicate.” It will make a folder below that says something like “Chapter 1 copy.” Simply double click and change the name.


For Windows & Mac users -

Option 3. Click the New Folder icon in the lower left corner of the screen.

Option 4. Hold down the following keys “Ctrl+Shift+N” (Windows) Cmd +Option+N (Mac).

corkboard chapters 

Option 5. You can also do this from corkboard mode. Make sure you’ve selected the main manuscript in the binder and then click the little corkboard icon at the top. (Highlighted in yellow in the image above.)

Make sure you’ve selected the last index card and do one of the methods described above. Each time you do, a new index card will pop up to represent a chapter. (You’ll also see them appear in the binder.)

*OR you can just add folders as you write.


If you already have an outline, you can add chapter summaries. (You can also do this as you go along or after the manuscript is written.)

Over to the right is an index card that says “Synopsis” above it. If you don’t see it, click the little blue “i” at the top right.

Make sure you have the correct chapter selected and that it says “Chapter” not “Scene” above the index card. You can also add summaries from corkboard mode.

Step 4 – Adding Text

Now you’re ready to start writing! No really, you are.

Just click on the icon in the binder for the first scene, click in the text editor in the center, and start writing.

(Or click on the chapter where you want to start a new scene.)

new text

When you’re ready for the next scene, you have several options.

1. Windows users - Click the green plus sign at the top or the little arrow to the right of the green plus and choose “New Text.” You’ll see the new scene appear in the binder.

(If you want it to go in the next chapter, just drag it to the folder icon or chapter title. Or click on the chapter you want before you choose “New Text.”)

2. Click the New Text icon in the lower left corner of the screen. (It’s a + sign for Mac users)

3. Press “Ctrl+N” (Windows) or “Cmd+N” (Mac).

4. Click the scene in the binder that you want to be before the new text and hit Return.

*If you already have something written in Word, watch for an upcoming post on how to import files as chapters.

A few tips . . .

It might be a good idea to open up a new project just to get the hang of Scrivener. You can play around with it when you want to try a new feature and not worry about messing anything up. :)

Keep in mind that Scrivener is set to save your project every two seconds after a pause and back it up every time you close the program. (These can be adjusted.)

Items can be moved and rearranged in Scrivener (which can be super helpful when moving around scenes and chapters), but be careful if you don’t want things moved, especially if you have a touch screen.

So there you go, you’re all set to work in Scrivener!

To learn more about Scrivener, head over to the Tools for Writers page.

Query.Sign.Submit. with Jen Malone

Jen Malone

Jen Malone is a middle grade and young adult author. Her debut AT YOUR SERVICE is now available from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX!, with several others on the way! She is represented by Holly Root of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.

At Your Service




Connect with and learn more about Jen . . .


literary agent and author 
Now for Jen’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission.


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Well, as someone who sent my very first query to an agent based on the fact that he shared a name with an ex-boyfriend of mine (And yes. Yes, it did include the line “I once loved ‘Agent Name” as my hook), let’s just say I’ve had a steep learning curve when it’s come to querying. Fortunately, said agent has an excellent sense of humor and though his rejection was swift, he had a great attitude about it. I’m sure my query went straight into his folder of “Queriers to contact if I ever go missing.” I began researching much more after this. I now realize that agents are using your sample pages to evaluate you as a writer and your query to evaluate you as a client. Obviously your writing is what will sell your book, but your agent also needs to have faith that you will be able to conduct yourself professionally in the industry. Agent relationships with editors are paramount and no agent wants to risk that relationship or their reputation by sending some crazypants author into a business deal. It’s fine to include some personality, but follow the standard query guidelines and be respectful and courteous, even if the reply isn’t what you wanted to hear.

What resources and websites did you use when querying?

I used Literary Rambles and Google to track down recent interviews with agents, but if I were querying now I’d add the Twitter hashtag #MSWL for great info on what agents are looking for. QueryTracker was a good way to see where agents might be in their inbox- I knew if someone posted a response to a query sent later than mine, it probably meant a no for mine. I think sites like Agent Query Connect can be good for getting feedback on your query (which I really encourage) but I see a huge value in professional critiques as well- often online query contests offer (free) agent feedback, and so do Ninja agents at WriteOneCon. Authors and agents alike will often donate critiques to charity auctions (not free, but for a good cause and tax-deductable) and many classes through Writer’s Digest come with instructor evaluation of pages or queries. Lastly, conferences often offer these opportunities. In my case, having an agent weigh in on my query (which had been through countless peer evaluations) made my request rate jump from 5% to 40%.

What do you wish you’d known back when you were in the query trenches?

I wish I’d known how often “it’s not you, it’s me” is true. There are a million reasons an agent doesn’t connect with or doesn’t feel she could sell a manuscript and it might not have anything to do with the writing or the story or the person sending the query (though sometimes it does, so evaluate your query often if you’re not getting requests!) Sometimes I would read an agent interview and feel like a certain agent and I would be complete BFFs if only she agreed to rep me. Then I would be crushed when she passed on my query. But I didn’t yet realize I wasn’t querying for a bestie, I was querying for an agent. And, while my books are certainly a part of me, I am not my book and someone not liking my book is not the same as someone not liking me (incidentally, this is a great thing for writers to learn early on because reviewers are sometimes less considerate than agents in their assessments!) Now that I’ve seen the decision process a little more closely, I have a much better handle on the many, many factors that go into repping and selling a book and I think it’s helped me see how much of it is a combination of craft, timing, and sheer luck.


Once a writer has signed with an agent, what’s the next step?

Write more. That’s always the next step. But otherwise, it was to incorporate Holly’s light notes and then wait for it to go out on sub. To be honest, it wasn’t all that different than querying except now I was listening for my phone AS WELL AS checking my email obsessively.

How editorial is your agent? Is it what you expected?

I didn’t initially think Holly was all that editorial because she subbed my first few manuscripts with the most minor of edits, but with my most recent YA she had really thoughtful notes for me on a pretty big revision and I was really excited to get those. However, I also have great CPs and do a lot with them before it even goes to my agent. What I really can’t get from anyone else in my circle is Holly’s pulse on the marketplace. Somehow she always knows exactly what editors are buzzing about or wishing for. Before I start work on new projects (or if I can’t decide between projects) I’ll send her what amounts to a query description of what I have in mind and ask for her input. She’s steered me away from one that was eerily similar to something she’d seen kicking around and not selling the year before and encouraged me to think about changing the time period for one to make it more marketable. I’m not saying “write to the marketplace” BUT if there are things that can make a project I’m already excited about more palatable to editors, there’s a huge value in knowing that before beginning the first draft.

Do you send sample chapters to your agent or do you wait until the next manuscript is finished?

My last MG book sold on proposal, so “finished” was only a few chapters and a synopsis. But prior to that I would send her the “blurb” before starting to get her take on it from a market perspective and then not send her more until I had gone through a round of revisions with my critique partners. However, I know some of her clients will send her pages as they go. She once said to me that she’s happy to read as often as I want and at any stage that I want, so long as I knew going in that it’s harder for her to see things with fresh eyes after the third read. I’m the same way so I understood that and try to plan ahead to get those fresh eyes at the most beneficial times.


Do you see the feedback from editors?

I chose to. Holly would forward me the editor’s email, usually including a short sentence or two of her own above it lending reassurances or interpretation. These were usually along the lines of, “picture me with an angry storm cloud above my head” or, “This one felt really close.” That said, if I were to go on a traditional sub round now, I’d ask for those updates on a predetermined day of the week instead of right away as they came in. I was on a crazy roller coaster during submission and those emails could really affect my mood. Knowing I would just be dealing with them once a week would have been helpful. Obviously, I’d get a call if the news was really good!

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

So my experience was a little different because, while I was on sub with the book I’d signed with Holly for, an editor who had already passed on it asked if I would be interested in submitting pages for an IP (Intellectual Property) project they were developing in-house. For that I had to write the first fifty pages and submit them alongside a full synopsis. I knew there were five or so other writers “auditioning” and it was a lot of work for something that might not pan out, but I loved the story concept and felt like it was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up. Thank goodness I did, because that’s now AT YOUR SERVICE!

Is there anything you learned while being on submission that you didn’t know before?

I learned there are a lot of ways to get a book deal. I’d never considered IP projects, but I loved the whole experience start to finish. It was especially great to have full access to my editor WHILE I was drafting and (something I didn’t even know enough to consider) it’s taken a little bit of the pressure off me in terms of sales because the concept was developed in-house. Of course, I feel total ownership over the book at this point and will do everything I can to ensure its success, but it’s been a nice way to ease myself into the industry. My next four books under contract are my own concepts, so they’re all on me and that makes me nervous!

How did you celebrate when you got the news about your first book deal?

My husband took me to dinner at a restaurant in Cambridge, MA called First Printer because it was built on the site of the nation’s first printing press and then we wandered over to an indie bookstore and searched out the shelf where my book would be. I’m sentimental like that!

Once you have a book published, how does submission change for an author?

Having an established relationship with Simon & Schuster let me sell my next MG series (RSVP, co-written with Gail Nall) on proposal to my current editor versus having to have the completed manuscript. My first editor moved to HarperCollins at the start of the year, so when I was ready to sub my YA, it went to her on an exclusive and she bought it! It’s still about the story and the writing, but cultivating good relationships (which includes proving you can be professional, work through revisions, and meet deadlines) is certainly a huge part of this business, as in most other fields.

How does it work when you’re writing a series?

Are both books sold together or does it depend on the success of the first? For me, it’s been both! In the case of AT YOUR SERVICE everyone would love for there to be a sequel but it depends on what early sales are like (see why preorders are so important?) But for RSVP, the concept of tween girls with a party planning business really lent itself well to a series, as did the four-person POV, so they bought the first two books at once and hopefully that will continue on as well! Fingers crossed!

Thank you so much, Jen!

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Posted August 2014