Blog Me MAYbe: My Favorite Writing Resources

Since today is Monday - that means the topic in our lovely Blog Me MAYbe blogfest, is all about sharing something that has to do with writing!

And what better way to start off the week, than to share some of my most favorite writing resources, be them books or websites?

First up: Favorite craft books on writing:

1. I've already mentioned this one before, but I love Stephen King's ON WRITING.

Goodreads Summary:

"Long live the King" hailed "Entertainment Weekly" upon the publication of Stephen King's "On Writing." Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, "On Writing" will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

This is one of my absolute favorite books on the craft of writing for a number of reasons. Not only does Stephen King open the door on how his writing career began (or actually, almost didn't), but he also lays down the honest truth, if writing is what you really want to do. 


Goodreads Summary:

From a top young adult literary agent, the only guide on how to write for young adults 

With an 87 percent increase in the number of titles published in the last two years, the young adult market is one of the healthiest segments in the industry. Despite this, little has been written to help authors hone their craft to truly connect with this audience. Writing Great Books for Young Adults gives writers the advice they need to tap this incredible market.

Topics covered include:

Listening to the voices of youth
Meeting your young protagonist
Developing a writing style
Constructing plots
Trying on points of view

Agent Regina Brooks has developed award-winning authors across the YA genre, including a Coretta Scott King winner. She attends more than 20 conferences each year, meeting with authors and teaching.

Another great resource for writers, specifically those interested in the Young Adult genre. 


Goodreads Summary:

Get schooled in the art of writing fiction for teens

"Writing & Selling the YA Novel" offers a complete lesson plan for writing and publishing fiction for teens. Structured like a day of high school, award-winning young adult novelist K.L. Going takes her students through every stage of YA writing.

Learn how the YA genre has developed in History class. Toss around ideas during Gym. Create authentic teen characters in "English class." Craft convincing plots during Lunch. Add it all up in Math as you learn about agents and contracts. Along the way you'll find plenty of "homework" exercises to help you hone your skills - as well as input from actual teen readers.

At the end of your school day, you'll have all the knowledge a young adult author needs to write a book that speaks to teen readers - and get it published.

I haven't read this one yet, but I've heard many great things - it's definitely on my TBR list. 

And of course, my Favorite Websites:

1. Mary Kole and KidLit.com:

About Me and Kidlit.com

Kidlit.com is an ongoing project for the passionate community of people who read and write children’s literature. My name is Mary Kole. I live in Brooklyn, am an associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and write young adult and middle grade of my own. My favorite things about kidlit change almost every day.

Agency Bio

If you want to find out more about me as an agent, please check out my bio on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website by clicking here.

Not only is this site a fabulous resource for all things Kid Lit - but Mary does an amazing job allowing followers to interact with one another. In fact, thanks to Mary, I met one of my uber critique partners - Heidi S. - through one of Mary's Critique Connection posts a few years ago!  

2. QueryTracker.net

Straight from QueryTracker:

QueryTracker is not just another list of agents. In fact, our agent list is secondary to the real purpose and power of QueryTracker.

QueryTracker.net is a model for what I like to call "Social Data Gathering." Which means each QT user contributes data about their query and agent experiences. Alone, this data does not reveal much, but when combined with the data from our ever-growing membership, we can see trends and identify important aspects of an individual agent's actions.

I've said it a few hundred times before, and I'll keep saying it a million times more...for those in the query letter stage, this site is an invaluable resource.

3. The Write-Brained Network

Welcome to the Write-Brained Network, a writing community dedicated to connecting writers of all genres, stages, and levels.

There are so many talented writers that are a part of this group - not to mention, I head up their YA subgroup - the YAwesome Writers!
Within this subgroup, we've managed to pull together some pretty amazing critique groups, based on sub-genres...so if you're at all interested in finding a great CP, head on over - the more the merrier! 
And I know...it's been awhile since I've been active on this site - and I so need to get on back over there and get with it! If anyone is interested, I'm thinking about starting a query letter workshop of sorts...maybe get a few folks to post their query, for feedback? Help others get started in the process? If this sounds like something that people would be interested in, I'm more than happy to get the ball rolling. 
So pop on over to the WB, sign up if you haven't already, join the YAwesome Writer's subgroup - and let me know!

There you have it - a few of my favorite writing resources! I'm sure I've missed many...so that of course leads me to ask:

What are your favorite writing resources?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Day 7 - Letter Q

You'd think the letter Q would be a tough one on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - but I'm pretty sure quite a few of us writer's participating in the A to Z challenge, will be covering the same topic:

Query Letters and QueryTracker.net

There are many steps on the road to publication a writer must take. Of course, first you need to write something. This can take weeks, months, and even years - on the contrary to what many people think. 

Then you need to polish your manuscript until it's shining like a bright copper penny. Buff out the hard edges, sand out all the splinters, and fill in the gaping holes. Get critique partners and beta readers to rip it up and give you good, honest feedback - and take most of it, to heart; it's only going to make your story stronger.

Then do this step, all over again.

Believe me, you don't send out your manuscript the day after you've typed your last word (even though this is what I did, with my very first manuscript...no wonder it's locked away on my external hard drive, far, far, away!). 

But once your manuscript is ready to find a great literary Agent - it's not as simple as printing it out, wrapping it up in brown craft paper tied off with twine, and shipping it off to your top choice of agents. Nope. Not even remotely. Because you still have a few more steps you need to take - first of which, is write yourself a great query letter, so you can get the attention of said great literary Agent.

But what exactly is a query letter?

Plain and simple, a query letter is a one page cover letter, that pitches you and your story to those in the publishing industry. You have seconds to make a lasting impression, and only one page to do it all in. One. 

What it's not: a resume. Or page after page of how great and original your story is. Or how much better you write than that chick who wrote the vampire books

For the most part, your query letter should consist of the following: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Many believe this should pack down into three tidy paragraphs - but I don't necessarily agree with that. As long as you keep all of the above to ONE page, I think it's fine, to say, have 4-6 small paragraphs vs. 3 long ones. But net/net, it should be roughly around 250 - 300 words total, from Dear Agent to Sincerely, Your Name. 

Agent Query posted a great article on How To Write A Query, which goes into more detail on all three of the above aspects, that make up the query letter - plus, they give great examples.

And I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking a class on learning to write the perfect query: I don't believe C.J. Redwine teaches her workshop anymore (I took her query class a few years ago, and it was invaluable!), but I know she's published a book on the topic, which is worth checking out (just click on her name above for more details). I've also taken several classes through Writer's Digest - they always have guest agents that conduct them (I've taken a few from both Mary Kole and Sara Megibow, which were outstanding) - and you always get hands on advice!

So, what happens next?

Once you've landed on the perfect query letter - if you haven't already, it's now time to start researching the agents you want to query. There are MANY resources out there, for researching agents - Agent Query, Publisher's Marketplace, Twitter, and my all-time favorite: QueryTracker.

And what exactly is QueryTracker.net?

As posted on their site:

QueryTracker is not just another list of agents. In fact, our agent list is secondary to the real purpose and power of QueryTracker.

QueryTracker.net is a model for what I like to call "Social Data Gathering." Which means each QT user contributes data about their query and agent experiences. Alone, this data does not reveal much, but when combined with the data from our ever-growing membership, we can see trends and identify important aspects of an individual agent's actions.

But really, QueryTracker is an amazing data base, were other writers in the querying stage come to learn about agents, share who they've queried themselves, offer support, and understand many of the typical habits of most agents (response turn around time, average acceptance / rejection percentages, correct name and mailing address, etc.).

It truly is a valuable service to those ready to query an agent - and the best part? It's a free service (although for $25 / year, you can upgrade for more in-depth features, which are well worth it). Not to mention, Patrick - the King of QT support - is a-mazing! He's constantly monitoring the list of agents tracked to make sure none of them are on the Preditors and Editors list (aka, the agents that don't have your best interests at heart), is there to answer any questions - and overall, maintains the awesomeness that is QueryTracker. 

Head on over there and sign up, if you haven't already!

To sum it all up:

A query letter takes time - and lots of it. Sometimes it takes multiple versions, before landing on the right one. But to be totally honest, this is one of my most ABSOLUTE favorite steps of the writing process. I love writing queries - however sick and twisted that sounds - but I do. Synopsis on the other hand? Not so much.

I was going to post my query letter for THE LUCKY FEW, which netted the most success I've had in the querying process over all the years (5 weeks of querying: 17 agents queried = 10 fulls, 3 partials, 4 declines - and an exclusive rewrite with my top choice in agents) - but instead, I'd rather hear your thoughts on the whole process. If you have any questions or you'd like to share your query letter, I'd love to see it!

So...Query Letters and QueryTracker.net: how did YOU tackle the query process and what tools did you use? 

Additional resources:

The infamous Query Shark

Mary Kole - KidLit.com 

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QueryTracker: Great Novels Aren't Written - They're Re-Written

There's an interesting article posted on QueryTracker's blog today - and it's all about how great stories aren't written...they're re-written. 

A large portion of the article focuses on the ability to edit and what it takes to put it all out on the table. Considering I'm in the edit process right now for not just one, but two of my MS's, I found the information in this blog to be invaluable.

I'm lucky to have some amazing beta readers and I'm also fortunate that I love, love, love the editing process (sick and twisted? I know!). However, as the article points out, sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

I find this particularly important, especially when reading and writing is so subjective. I'm dealing with this right now, with some of the feedback from my beta readers - what one found to be a great way to say something, someone else completely disagreed. Where one thought a different path would make the writing stronger, another picked a completely different path.

So who wins?

In the end, me.

Only I know every intimate detail of my writing. Every nuance, character flaw, and history of each character. But all of that aside, it's important to take every piece of advice, criticism, and LOL moment my beta readers give me, to heart. Because without them, my writing would suffer. My writing would only have one opinion. And my writing would never get any better.

That doesn't mean you have to make every single change thrown your way - if you did this, your manuscript would never be finished...and ultimately, in the end, you'd be worse off than when you started.

So with that, I leave you with the great blog posted by Danyelle on the QueryTracker site and ask, how does everyone feel about the editing process? What great pieces of advice do you choose to live by, when scraping away at your manuscript? I'd love to hear!