Hope: The Best Remedy for Rejection

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I’ve written several times about the inevitability of rejection. As a writer writing about writing (say that five times fast), it’s a topic that I would be remiss to avoid. 

Today, however, I don’t want to talk about how much rejection sucks. I want to talk about my master strategy for taking the bite off an otherwise difficult experience: that is, how to cultivate hope despite the no’s sitting in your inbox. 

There are two steps that I take to dull the sting of rejection, and I find they work best when done (or at least started) simultaneously. 

Hope Rejuvenizer # 1: Revise your query and try again.

If you only send one query out, and you receive one rejection in response, it’s going to hurt. You know that saying about eggs in one basket? It’s the same idea—if all of your hope is resting on one query, it hurts twice as bad if it doesn’t work out and you have nothing to lean back on. 

Instead, make a list. Decide on five to ten agents or editors (or both) you’d like to send to, and send your queries in batches. If you get nearly all form rejections, that’s a sign that you should probably rewrite your query before sending out batch two (remember what I said about getting your query critiqued? Do it), but the point is that you get a batch two out there. 

The reason I call this a Hope Rejuvenizer is because with every query you send out, you have a new chance. A new open door. And maybe it won’t work out, it’s true, but maybe it will. And that’s what hope is all about. 

Hope Rejuvenizer # 2: Work on a new manuscript. 

This may sound like an anti-rejuvenizer because some may consider working on a new manuscript as a sort of throwing in of the towel. I know I did when I first started out in my writing journey, but it’s not true. 

You see, there are two benefits of working on a new WIP while querying another manuscript. 

  1. Distraction. Do not underestimate the power of distraction. When you’re querying, it can often be very difficult to focus. Every e-mail feels like it could be the e-mail, even if you only sent that query out ten minutes ago. When you’re busy working on another WIP, it is much easier to set those panicky thoughts aside and immerse yourself in a new world where queries don’t exist.

  2. Backup plan. Eventually there may come a time when you decide to trunk the novel you were querying. This often happens after a slew of rejections, and it can be very difficult to accept, especially if you don’t have something else to work on. Something else to be hopeful about. By working on a second (unrelated) manuscript while querying your novel, you have something to fall back on if you decide to trunk the first. You can say, ok, maybe this one didn’t work out—but the one I’m writing might! 

    Take my word for it. It really takes the edge off the sting. 

So those are my main hope rejuvenizers, but now I want to hear yours: what do you do to keep your chin up while dealing with rejections? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Dealing with rejection? Here are two strategies to help you to keep moving forward. (Click to tweet
Rejection is hard, but here are two steps to remaining hopeful despite it. (Click to tweet)

Query Research Red Flags: When NOT to Submit

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When entering the query trenches, probably the most exciting (if not slightly nerve-wracking) part of the researching stage is to make the list. The record of agents that will have your query in their hands over the next couple weeks.

But while sending your query to more agents than you have fingers is a common practice among querying writers, it’s important to remember to tailor our choices to agents who actually be a good fit.

So while you’re developing your to-submit list, look out for these red flags indicating that you may want to move on to someone else.

You probably SHOULDN’T submit to agents who...

  • Don’t represent your genre. I know what you’re thinking. Sometimes you’ll come across a totally amazing agent who has exactly the personality your dream agent has, has made a bajillion sales and made debut authors very happy and is totally witty on Twitter. Sometimes, said agent is even following you on Twitter and you’ve talked to them via the interwebs and they just seem completely perfect.

    Except, you know, the whole not-representing-your-genre thing.

    I know this is hard when it happens. I know just how tempting it can be to send your query anyway and hope that maybe you’ll be the exception. I know.

    But the thing is, agents know what they’re doing when they choose genres to represent, and they have reasons for not representing certain genres. As amazing and wonderful as this dream agent may be, if they don’t represent your genre, then I can promise you that they aren’t the right fit for you. They will not be your dream agent, because for one reason or another, they will not be able to best represent your book.

    So keep admiring dream agent for being awesome, but resist the temptation to submit.

  • Are closed to submissions. This should really go without saying, but I’ve seen a couple agents comment about this, so I guess I’ll say it anyway.

    If an agent is closed to submissions, that means you shouldn’t submit to them.

    No, you shouldn’t DM them on Twitter or Facebook to ask if they’ll make an exception. No, you shouldn’t send it just for kicks (because the only one who will get kicked is you).

    It’s sad when an agent you want to submit to is closed, but it’s usually not a permanent closing. If you want to submit to them that badly, you’ll have to wait until they open up again.

    But until then, save everyone some aggravation and don’t send.

  • Don’t have publishing credentials or sales and are on their own. The reason I lumped these together is because individually, they are sometimes ok. I have absolutely nothing against new agents, and in fact, they can often be great opportunities for writers because they have a much more open list than agents who are already established.

    What I’m talking about here, are agents who set off on their own without any experience whatsoever. Agents who start up their own agency and have absolutely no background to support them. Agents with zero credentials and zero sales and aren’t working with more experienced agents at said agency.

    This may sound a little crazy, but it does happen. There are people out there (both well-intentioned and not) who call themselves agents and set up a so-called agency without any experience whatsoever.

    Avoid these people.

    You want someone who knows the ins and out of the publishing industry. Someone with great connections to dozens of editors, with very happy clients who rave about their awesomeness. Someone well prepared to help and guide you along your writing career.

    So if the establishment you’re looking at seems a little sketchy, listen to that gut feeling and find someone else. 

What red flags do you look out for while choosing agents to query? Any you’d like to add to the list?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you a querying writer? Look out for these red flags when deciding who to submit to. (Click to tweet).  
For the querying writer, here are three signs that you SHOULDN’T submit to that agent. (Click to tweet). 

Why I Keep Track of My Word Count Progress

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I am a methodical writer. Despite previous pantsing trysts, I’ve found that I write a lot faster (and more
confidently) when I know where I’m going, and I keep a daily and weekly writing goal that I work hard to try to meet.

That being said, it’s likely little surprise to hear that I often keep track of my word count progress.

I’ll admit that it’s a practice I fell out of after using it for a couple WIPs, but after participating in NaNoWriMo last year, I remembered why I’d starting keeping track in the first place—and it wasn’t just to make the analytical side of me happy.

You see, it’s easy to forget what you’ve accomplished when you’re deep in the trenches of a first draft. The elusive words of “The End” seem impossibly far away, and the day after day slog can quickly become exhausting.

Keeping track of your progress, then, serves two purposes:
  1. It shows you just how much you’ve written. Seeing your progress on paper can be really encouraging when you’re halfway through your WIP and it feels like reaching the end will be impossible. It can serve as a great reminder of how a little each day can add up to something fantastic, and for me, at least, it’s proven to be a great motivator.

  2. Progress is progress. Writing down your progress every day serves a second purpose too—it encourages you to make daily progress. Even if you only write a few hundred words that day, the numbers prove that even small progress is progress.
During NaNoWriMo you get this really awesome chart thingie that shows your progress on an axis like this, that I completely love. As of yet, I haven’t found something to replicate that (except for doing it by hand in Excel), but you can try a widget like the one below to keep track of your total progress.

42145 / 75000 words. 56% done!

(NOTE: If anyone knows where to find a NaNoWriMo-like replication of the progress chart, you will make me a very happy writer).

In addition to little bar graphs like the one above, spreadsheets are a fantastic way to not only keep track of your total word progress, but of your daily and weekly progress as well, which I highly recommend. But all in all, the important thing is to just keep track.

Do you record your daily or weekly word count progress? Why or why not? 

Twitter-sized bites: 

Why one writer believes it's important to keep track of your daily word count progress. (Click to tweet)

Do you record your daily word count progress while writing? Here's why you should. (Click to tweet)

How to Write a Great Twitter Pitch

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It’s that time again! We are just days away from yet another fantastic Twitter pitch contest, this one on May 28 from 8AM to 8PM EDT. You can find all the details, rules and extra tidbits here, as well as a post on why you should enter pitch contests here.

That out of the way, on to the real meat of the post: Twitter pitches.

Your goal behind putting together a Twitter pitch should be to sum up or give the essence your novel in a way that’s intriguing—all within 140 characters. Simple, right? (Right, let’s go with that).

By the end of your Twitter pitch, readers should know a few key things about your novel: 

  • Who your MC is. 
  • What’s at stake. 
  • Essence of plot. 
  • Genre. 
  • Bonus: What makes your story unique. 
  • Bonus: Conveying the voice. 

That seems like a lot to fit into 140 characters, and it is. But if done correctly, you may just catch the eye of a publishing professional. As an added bonus, a well-crafted Twitter pitch can be turned into a fantastic log line, which is useful in several stages of the publishing process.

Because it would be unfair for me to talk about Twitter pitches without giving examples, I’ll let you tear mine apart. Here’s a variation of what I’ll be using next week:
Cade is unaware a secret society has been watching since he killed his gf w/ a kiss—now an assassin isn't his biggest problem #PitMad YAPar 
It isn’t a perfect example by any means, but it hits the main points: you know who the MC is and what’s at stake, the essence of the plot comes across, and there’s the genre tag at the end. You also may have noticed that you need to fit the hashtag into the Twitter pitch. So you don’t really have 140 characters at your disposal, sorry.

For examples of some Twitter pitches that got requests in March’s Pitch Madness, check out this fantastic roundup from Carissa Taylor.

Finally, I’d like to do something a little different here at Writability in anticipation of the upcoming #PitMad contest—I’m hosting a pitch critique session right here in the comments from right now (May 24) until Monday, May 27th at midnight EDT. 

I’m going to do my very best to try to critique every pitch that’s posted, but I encourage you guys to lurk around and critique each others pitches as well—not only is it nice to interact with each other and make friends (we like making friends, yes?), but it’s actually fantastic practice. If someone other than myself critiques your pitch, it would be very nice for you to return the favor. As I’ve said before, you can learn just as much from critiquing each other as you can from getting a critique.

Also, if you’d like to critique mine while you’re at it, you’re more than welcome to. It’s not a requirement, but I do enjoy trading critiques, and it might be fun for you guys to have the opportunity to tear my stuff apart. Maybe. If you like that kind of stuff.

Note: If you do critique each other, please be courteous. I may have a thick skin, but not everyone does. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and all that. Ok.

Anyway, so let’s get to it, shall we? Post your Twitter pitches in the comments below and let’s have some fun!

UPDATE 3/25/14: I am temporarily taking more pitches for a last-minute critique! I'll post here and on Twitter when the critiques are closed again. Good luck! :) 

UPDATE 3/25/14: Pitmad is over and critiquing is now closed. Thanks to all who participated!

Twitter-sized bites: 

Entering #pitmad? Get some tips and a critique on your pitch at @Ava_Jae’s blog! (Click to tweet)

Having trouble with your Twitter pitch? Here are some tips. (Click to tweet)

Writing Tool: WorkFlowy

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So about a week ago, I came across this blog post on YA Stands about A Cool Way to Outline Your Novel. The post was a recommendation for a free online tool called WorkFlowy, and it sounded interesting so I decided to check it out.

The basic idea behind WorkFlowy is to imitate our thought process—you start off with one bullet point, then build off from it to create more points, and before you know it you have several sub-lists with their own sub-lists and so on and so forth. It's a clean, minimalistic layout and it allows you to open up and collapse your lists and sublists and create a nice, organized, outline-like list.

Here's a video that can explain it a lot better than I can:

You guys may or may not remember my post from forever ago about how I'm a list person, and that has not changed since writing that post. I still enjoy working with lists, and when I begin my initial brainstorming, I do so with (surprise!) long, bulleted lists. I usually start this brainstorming with a pencil and paper, but there was always the issue of my bullets starting to not line up (straight lines? Who can actually draw straight lines?) and not really being able to add to the previous part of the list, and it can get a little messy on paper.

You can imagine, then, that hearing about WorkFlowy made me a pretty happy writer. And trying it out made me even happier.

The great thing about WorkFlowy is that it makes brainstorming ridiculously easy. The bullets work off of each other beautifully, you can move things around and add and delete points effortlessly, and when you're done, you can export the list into whatever format or document you'd like and continue writing from there. The only downside is that while it is free, the free version only gives you 500 items a month, which seems like a lot, but if you fall in love with it as quickly as I did, you will use those items up faster than you'd think. Nevertheless, it's still a great tool for brainstorming.

So if you're a list person like me, or would like to try brainstorming with lists, I highly recommend WorkFlowy as a wonderful writing tool. It's easy to use, intuitive, and it makes what can be a very messy part of the writing process simple and organized.

Have you ever used WorkFlowy or something of the like? Do you brainstorm with lists, or use another method?

Twitter-sized bites:

How one writer uses the free tool WorkFlowy to make brainstorming easy. (Click to tweet)

Have you tried this writing tool for your brainstorming and outlining needs? (Click to tweet)

Self-Publishing: It’s Not for Everyone

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I have written nine manuscripts. Four of them I have attempted to get published—three of which will likely never see the light of day—and four will need massive, book-altering revisions to stand a chance. Whether or not those revisions will take place remains to be seen.

Ten years ago, having nothing but a hard drive full of unpublished manuscripts and a dream wasn’t uncommon. Traditional publishing was just as hard to get into as it is today, and while self-publishing existed, it was extraordinarily difficult to be a successful self-publisher and was largely not taken seriously as an option.

But now things are different. Now self-publishing is a perfectly valid and wonderful option for many writers. Now you’re just as likely to hear about breakout indie writers as you are successful debut traditional authors. Self-publishing has proven itself, and there are opportunities for writers like never before.

And I’ve noticed for some time now, that there’s been a fair amount of pressure on writers like me—writers with books in the drawer who continue writing anyway without an agent, or contract, or other milestone of publishing success.

I’ve noticed people looking at writers like me and saying well, why haven’t you self-published? 

I mean, it’s a valid question, particularly for those with polished manuscripts and a lack of response from the traditional publishing world. But the thing is, self-publishing isn’t for everyone.

Those who have self-published know that going indie isn’t a decision you make on a whim—it’s a career move, and one that you have to be fully dedicated to in order to succeed. It involves taking full control of the book publishing process, from first draft to final, fully e-book formatted ready-to-publish draft. It means finding an editor and a cover artist and taking on the full responsibility of marketing, all the while writing the next book. It’s a lot of work, and for some people, it’s a fantastic choice.

But then there are writers who would rather trade the control over the cover and layout and marketing decisions for an opportunity to work with a publishing team—to have an agent by your side and some career guidance along the way. Some writers prefer the collaborative effort of creating a book, and don’t mind trading the lower royalties for the chance at wider, in-bookstore distribution. Not that there’s any guarantee of that, mind you, but for some, the risk is worth it. For some, that’s the choice that’s right for them.

I’m not going to say that I’ll never self-publish, because I don’t know that that’s true. Maybe one day I’ll decide that it’s time to wade into the indie waters, but for now, at least, I’ll continue to pursue the traditional dream. And if it never happens, then it never happens, but I’ll keep writing anyway and I’ll do it with no regrets because I’ll know I pursued what was right for me.

What do you think? For those who have self-published, would you agree that it’s not for everyone? For those that haven’t, have you ever been asked why not? 

Twitter-sized bites: 

Going indie isn't a decision you make on a whim. (Click to tweet)

Self-publishing isn't for everyone—and this is why. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Do Writers Need Social Media?

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I remember reading this post by Nathan Bransford years ago on when you should start using social media. His post is actually what pushed me to take the plunge into Twitter and blogging, a decision that I couldn’t be happier with.

Now that I’ve waded around the social media world for two years and written posts on the best social media sites and accounts for writers, I’ve started thinking: do writers really need it?

I’m hesitant to make generalizations about what anyone needs to succeed (or generalizations at all, for that matter) with few exceptions. And while social media is not one of those exceptions, I do believe that being active in social media can at the very least make a writer’s life easier. And a little less lonely.

You see, social media is so much more than telling the world about what you had for breakfast—it’s a community, and lucky for writers there’s a rather large one of wonderful people who love words and just want to tell stories to the world. But more than that, social media is a world rife with opportunity—from pitch contests, to wish list requests from agents, to online writing conferences (which are actually a thing).

And that’s available to everyone long before publication is a reality.

Post-publication, social media becomes even more important. It allows writers to connect with their readers, both future and current. Social media drives word-of-mouth marketing, keeps readers in-the-know regarding your book, and it allows anyone and everyone to share their thoughts on your work.

So while I won’t say that it’s impossible to be a successful writer without social media, I do believe that social media can make a writer’s life much easier (and, dare I say—a little more fun?).

Even if you don’t think you need social media, it might be worth a try anyway. You never know—it might turn out to be one of your best decisions yet.

Do you think writers need social media? Why or why not?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Do writers really need social media? (Click to tweet
It may not be impossible to be a successful writer without social media, but it does make life easier. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: Do You Finish Every Novel Idea You Start?

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Confession time again: I have started several novels that I never finished.

Considering I’ve often written about finishing your novels and just getting the words down and worrying about the rest later, this may be a little surprising to some of you. But it’s true, and it’s something that I’m actually quite unashamed of.

Most times, these starts are a false start of sorts—more of an exploration of an idea than an actual attempt at writing out a novel. But I have fully plotted WIP ideas from start to finish, written a page or two, then decided I didn’t want to write it after all. On two occasions, I have written more than a couple thousand words, then realized with some disappointment that it wasn’t working.

So there. I’ve said it: I don’t finish every novel idea that I start.

The thing is, that initial writing for me is part of the exploration process. I could have plotted out my most epic novel yet, but if the voice of the protagonist doesn’t work for me, I immediately lose interest and move on to something else. For me, character is king, and if I don’t find an intriguing voice to tell the story, then it’ll remain a snippet of writing and some jotted down ideas.

This is why I don’t really call a first draft an actual draft or WIP until I’ve hit 10,000 words. Even that isn’t necessarily a guarantee that this is a novel I’m going to finish, but the odds are astronomically higher after that milestone because I’ve gotten a good feel for the characters and usually if I’ve made it that far, I know something’s there.

Now, I’m well aware that not everyone works the same way I do, and so I want to hear from you: what is your exploration process like? Do you finish every novel idea that you start? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Do you finish every novel idea you start? @Ava_Jae doesn’t, and here’s why. (Click to tweet)  
Why one writer doesn’t call a WIP an actual draft until she’s written 10,000 words. (Click to tweet)

Character Development: Write Gray Characters

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When I first began writing, I wrote characters who were black and white—good and evil—with little
in-between. My antagonists were entirely villainous with few, if any, redeemable qualities. My protagonists were the essence of good and had little to be ashamed of.

I had this thinking, I suppose, of pure good against pure evil, but what I didn’t realize is that people are rarely completely black or white—our morals and our understanding of what is good and what is bad come in shades of gray.

I discovered over the course of several manuscripts that I really enjoy writing characters who struggle against that darker side of themselves—whether it’s addiction, rage, a thirst for revenge, or something else. Characters who make terrible mistakes with dire consequences and have to face and accept the side of themselves that they so desperately want to bury.

Characters who aren’t white or black, but somewhere in between.

When I say “write gray characters” I don’t mean characters who are apathetic, or boring, or plain—I mean antagonists who feel justified in their actions, and protagonists who make bad decisions and say and do things they didn’t mean. I mean write characters who are dynamic, who struggle to make decisions, who aren’t always sure if they’re doing the right thing, or what the right thing really is.

Because the truth is, no one is 100% evil or 100% good. So why should our characters be any different?

Think back to your favorite characters—are they entirely black or white, or are they gray?  

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are your characters black, white or gray? (Click to tweet)
Do you write gray characters? Here's why you should. (Click to tweet)

Writability Turns Two!

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Well it’s official, guys: Writability is two years old. The actual two-year date was on the 6th, but I was silly and forgot to check the calendar when working out my posts, so it’s a belated blogoversary celebration.

Nevertheless, it’s somewhat incredible to me to think that I’ve been blogging for two years. I mean, I remember when the blog was a weird tan and red color and had a tiled book background. I remember being terrified when I put up that first post two years ago and I remember thinking well, it’ll be worth it if one person likes it.

I never imagined this. I wasn’t sure that the blog would last a couple months—let alone two full years. I never thought that I’d have wonderful discussions in the comments or that I’d get nice e-mails from people that I will save forever. I never thought I’d meet some wonderful people or that’d I’d learn just as much from writing the posts as I do from discussing the ideas behind them.

And it’s thanks to you. Really.

Whether you’ve read one post or you’ve been here since May 6, 2011—every comment, every page view, e-mail, Facebook like, Twitter follow and tumblr reblog is a vote of support. Every kind word and virtual high-five is a reminder of why I continue to do this. Of why I wrack my brain three times a week for a post to write.

In a way, nothing has changed—I’m still an unagented writer dreaming of publication. I’m still a person who loves to write and read and gets excited about Harry Potter fandom and Marvel movies, and occasionally I’ll write a post that scares me just as much as that first ever post did.

But in a way, everything has changed—I’ve shared an excerpt from my novel here for the first time, I have people regularly sharing my posts with others and I’ve had truly incredible conversations about why writers must read and whether or not cursing is acceptable in YA novels, and I’m proud to say that I have an awesome community right here at Writability.

So thank you. All of you. You have truly made this experience worthwhile and wonderful and I cannot thank you enough.

How to Avoid Writing Info-Dumps

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Easily one of the more difficult aspects of writing a novel is balancing explanation with prose. Giving readers enough information to understand the story without drowning them in particulars.

In other words, explaining without info-dumping.

The reason info-dumps can be so tricky to avoid is because it’s often difficult for writers to determine how much is too much, and oftentimes, in an effort to avoid confusing readers, we overdo it. We explain way too much at once and end up freezing the story altogether to rant on and on about why elements of the story work the way they do. It’s like freezing the action in the middle of the movie to say and now for a little history…

It’s jarring, and it often results in bored readers.

What makes this even tricker is that the opposite problem is one that is just as deadly—not explaining enough, which results in losing readers entirely to confusion and frustration. This is a common problem as well, because as the authors of the story, we sometimes forget that readers aren’t privy to the information we have stored away in our skulls.

The key is to reach a sweet spot in between by spreading the information out throughout the novel.

What this requires is a prioritization of information. Right from the beginning, you need to determine what information is essential for readers to understand immediately— information about your characters, the setting, the world rules, etc. That information should be sprinkled throughout the beginning of your novel.

From there, determine what else is important, but you can hold off on revealing without utterly confusing your readers. History, backstory and more detailed explanations usually fall into this category, and this information should be spread out throughout the middle-end of your book.

Regardless of when the information is conveyed, the important thing is to make sure you spread it out. Have a couple characters talk about something important—then interrupt them. Show us the way your fantasy world works rather than explaining it over the course of a couple pages.

If you strategically sprinkle bits of information throughout your prose, you’ll teach your readers all they need to know to understand your story without drowning them in information—and that’s exactly what you want.

Have you ever written an info-dump? What did you do to fix it? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you drowning your readers in information? Avoid info dumps now. (Click to tweet)
Make your readers happy: strategically sprinkle bits of information throughout your prose. (Click to tweet)

25 Helpful Writerly and Twitter Terms

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When you think about it, we writers have our own language. We have abbreviations and terms that make non-writers stare like you’re speaking Tagalog. Words that can sound intimidating to new writers jumping into the writing world. Words that writers throw around in everyday conversation, completely forgetting that not everyone will understand.

I’ll admit I do it, too. And so I thought I’d put together a quick list of help writerly and Twitter terms. So without further ado, a quick introduction to the language of writers...


  • MS: Manuscript. To quote from dictionary.com, "the original text of an author's work, handwritten or now usually typed, that is submitted to a publisher." 
  • WIP: Work-In-Progress. Usually referring to an unfinished manuscript, or a non-final-draft manuscript. Technically a manuscript can be a WIP until the final, published draft. 
  • CP: Critique partner. Very special people that every writer needs
  • SASE: Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Only necessary in mailed queries. With the rise of e-mail queries, this isn’t as common as it used to be. 
  • ARC: Advanced Reader Copy. Copies of a soon-to-be-published novel sent to book reviewers, etc. shortly before the publication of said novel. This is not the very final draft, but it’s close. It’s also how writers get those lovely blurbs before the book is officially published. 
  • MC: Main Character. 
  • NA: New Adult. A relatively new term for book centering around protagonists aged around 18-26. See books like Losing It by Cora Carmack and this post by NA author Christina Lee who explains it much better than I can at the moment. 
  • YA: Young Adult. Term for novels centering around protagonists aged about 15-18 (with wiggle room, of course). 
  • MG: Middle Grade. Term for novels centering around middle-school and slightly younger-aged protagonists. 
  • PB: Picture Book. Children’s book with pictures...self-explanatory, I hope. 
  • TBR pile/list: To-Be-Read pile/list. Basically a list of books that you want to read; AKA the list that never ends. 
  • R&R: Revise and Resubmit. A request from a publishing professional to make suggested edits and resubmit the manuscript. Usually R&Rs are sent if the agent/editor is very interested in the novel, but believes it needs significant revisions before it’s ready to be taken on. 


  • edit letter: The letter of doom. Ok, not really. Edit letters are letters from editors that detail fixes/rewrites/adjustments that a manuscript needs before publication. Length may vary. 
  • query letter: A letter sent to agents and editors with the purpose of (hopefully) enticing said publishing professional to request the full manuscript. 
  • pitch: Not to be confused with synopsis, a pitch is a brief summary of a novel meant to intrigue and entice readers to open up the book. This should not give away the ending of the book. Think back-cover copy (the blurb usually found on the back of a book). 
  • synopsis: A horrific torture device (well, it could be). A synopsis is a summary of the entire book. It includes all of the main characters, major plot points and the ending. 
  • full: A request from a publishing professional to see a writer’s full manuscript. 
  • partial: A request from a publishing professional to see the first section of a writer’s manuscript. This can vary from a few chapters to half the book, but is often around fifty pages. 


  • RT: Re-tweet. A tweet shared word-for-word from another Twitter user. 
  • MT: Modified Tweet. A tweet shared from another Twitter user with minor adjustments (usually to make it fit in 144 characters with attribution). 
  • DM: Direct Message. A private message only viewable between the sender of the message and the recipient. 
  • @-reply: Replying to or commenting on a tweet while using the @ symbol to direct the tweet to a specific user. Tweets starting with @[username] can only be seen by the mentioned user and those who follow both the sender and the recipient. 
  • hashtag (#): A phrase or abbreviation marked with #. These are used for two purposes: to add commentary to a tweet like this:
    And to tag a tweet to a specific thread. Hashtags are often used to mark a Twitter forum of sorts—all tweets tagged with a hashtag will appear in a thread together. 
  • Twitter handle: Twitter username. All Twitter usernames start with an @ symbol. For example, mine is @Ava_Jae
  • Auto-follow back: Following a user immediately and only because they followed you first. I don’t do this for reasons

This isn’t a comprehensive list (because that would be way too long), but what terms would you add to the list? Can you think of any that you are unsure of or find confusing?

Query Critiques: More Important Than You Think

Photo credit: Frederic Guillory on Flickr
While I’ve written several times about the importance of having critique partners and getting your work (gently) ripped to shreds, it has occurred to me that we’ve yet to discuss another very important step to the critiquing process: getting your query letter looked at.

Most writers are not enormous fans of the query letter writing stage—in fact, many writers have no problem admitting that it’s on the lower end of enjoyable things to write.

Writing a good query involves summarizing your book into a couple paragraphs in a way that makes others have a good understanding of your story and want to read more, while also making your book stand out. It also involves accurately reflecting the tone of your book, giving away enough so that readers understand the main idea of your novel without giving away too much, and writing it in a way that flows.

In short: query letters are hard.

Good news, is there is a way to improve your query and get valuable insight into how to improve it, and it’s called a critique.

The nice thing about query critiques is that they don’t take a huge commitment. Writers can trade three or four drafts of their critiques over the course of a couple days, versus trading 60-100k word manuscripts over the course of a month.

But like beta-reading and manuscript-swapping, query critiques are enormously helpful, because they allow you to get outside feedback before industry professionals start looking at it critically.

Because the truth is this: the query is the first impression industry professionals have of your work, and if you don’t polish it as well as you did your book, it won’t matter how much you edited, or how beautiful your writing is, because many professionals won’t get to your actual pages. Your query has to make your book stand out and shine, or you’re likely to get rejections regardless of how well-written your book is.

Query letters aren’t easy to get right, but if you trade query critiques with other writers, not only will you get valuable feedback on how to improve your letter, but you’ll also begin to develop an understanding for what works and what doesn’t in a query.

It’s a win-win, and it’s a step that you definitely don’t want to skip.

Have you ever critiqued a query or had your query critiqued? What was your experience like? 

The Writer’s Voice Entry: FIELD OF BONES


Dear Wonderful Judges,

Seventeen-year-old Cade Shor just murdered his girlfriend—with a kiss.

He didn't mean to kill Hailey—he's not even sure how it happened. But with new instincts driving him to kill again, he doesn’t have much time to figure out how to stop the bloodshed and the assassin now hell-bent on taking his head.

Cade starts looking for help with his best friend Ana, but neither of them expects punk-ass Malachi to be the answer to their questions. He explains that Cade’s a Reaper—an immortal tasked with releasing the souls of the dying from their bodies. As a Ward, Malachi is tasked with guiding and protecting Reapers—but he hasn’t told them everything.

What Cade doesn’t know is that he’s a direct descendant of the most powerful Reaper on record, and his killings have caught the attention of a formidable group. To them, he’s a loose cannon and a risk to their establishment.

If Cade doesn't learn how to control his body's new addiction to the life force of the living—and fast—an assassin will be the least of his problems.

FIELD OF BONES is a completed 86,000-word paranormal YA novel written in Cade and Ana's alternating POVs, and is a standalone novel with series potential. Thank you for your time.

First 250: 

I don't usually think much when making out with my girlfriend, but right now I think I might be dying.

A part of me has shifted—broken off and crashed over my lungs and heart, leaving shrapnel in the muscles lining my ribcage. Fire drips down my chest and spreads smoothly across my body like God exhaling into me. My skin prickles with electricity and my mind overflows with neon color and laughter. I've never been into drugs, but when you feel like you might explode from the raw power flooding your veins, high barely covers it.

I'm not high—I'm on the moon. I'm on freaking Jupiter.

It’s incredible—too incredible—my heart is seconds away from giving out, my brain on the verge of shutting down, and this kiss. This frickin’ amazing kiss.

I think it’s killing me.

“911, what's your emergency?”

The colors fade from my mind and it's like I'm waking from a dream I could spend eternity in, but the real world doesn't feel right—it's cold, dark, empty. I'm in a car but I can't remember whose it is. Bright street lights from the parking lot loom over me like a spotlight.

Then I see her.

Slumped over in my arms, barely breathing, pale and cool to the touch. As I sit her up, her head lolls on her shoulders, limp, delicate. The crisp smell of autumn wafts through the open window, lingering in my lungs, spicy and fresh; the scent of bright decaying leaves and earth, fused with the haze of stale cigarettes.

Interrupting Your Scheduled Programming...

Lovely readers!

I've just learned that I am able to enter this year's The Writer's Voice competition, which means that tomorrow I will be posting the first 250 words and a pitch for a manuscript I've been working on for some time.  This is exciting, because it means I get to share some of my (novel) writing on the blog with you lovely people for the first time in the history of Writability. Woo!

There will still be a normal post on Friday, just like any other week. So no worries.

Thanks for all of your support!

For YA Readers: Read These Now

So I've been reading a lot, lately. While I haven't written any book reviews in a while, I'd like to share with you some fantastic YA novels that I've had the pleasure of reading recently that more than deserve an enthusiastic recommendation.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you three YA books that you really must read.

Goodreads summary:
Photo credit: Goodreads
"In a world where people born with an extreme skill—called a Grace—are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him. 
When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. 
She never expects to become Po's friend. 
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone."
I'm not sure why I put off reading this for so long, but I am so glad I finally sat down with it. Graceling was my favorite combination of elements: action, romance, loss, victory and a supernatural twist. The romance especially stuck with me—it was realistic, perfectly paced, and at times heartbreaking. It didn't fall for typical YA tropes and I found Cashore's take on Katsa and Po's relationship refreshing.

As for the characters themselves, Katsa was a breath of fresh air. She's easily one of the strongest female protagonists I've ever read—stubborn without being unlikable, and caring without being weak. I’ve added the companion novels (Fire and Bitterblue) to my TBR list and I look forward to reading more about the Graceling realm.

Photo credit: Goodreads
Goodreads summary:
it's almost 
time for war. 
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance. 
She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch. 
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible. 
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life."
This book. THIS BOOK.

If you caught my review for Shatter Me way back when, you know that I absolutely love Tahereh Mafi's unique writing style. She is truly an author whose voice you can't mistake for anyone else's, and she manages time and time again to blend poetry with high-action, emotion-packed novels. I devoured Unravel Me in 48 hours, and I loved it.

I will say that there were moments were I got a little frustrated with Juliette (the protagonist), but I was glad to see her growth in the story. Unravel Me will take your emotions, rip them up, stomp on them, set them on fire, then hand them back to you with a wink and a smile. I need to know what happens next.

Goodreads summary:
Photo credit: Goodreads
"Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh—to build a home—on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. 
But this new Earth isn't the paradise Amy had been hoping for. There are giant pterodactyl-like birds, purple flowers with mind-numbing toxins, and mysterious, unexplained ruins that hold more secrets than their stone walls first let on. The biggest secret of all? Godspeed's former passengers aren't alone on this planet. And if they're going to stay, they'll have to fight. 
Amy and Elder must race to discover who—or what—else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. They will have to look inward to the very core of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed—friends, family, life on Earth—will have been for nothing. 
So, as of this writing, I haven't actually finished Shades of Earth yet, but I couldn't leave it out because it is so good thus far. Seriously.

I don't usually read sci-fi, but the Across the Universe trilogy has easily become one of my favorite trilogies. I've reviewed the first two books (or should I say, rambled about how awesome they are) and the final book is turning out to be a doozy.

If you like exciting, twisty mysteries and with lots of deaths, I definitely recommend you give Across the Universe (and the rest of the trilogy) a try.

Has anyone else read these? If so, what did you think? And for those of you who enjoy YA, feel free to recommend some of your favorites—I'm always happy to add to the ever-growing TBR list
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