Cook your novel

April 14, 2012 at 7:39 am (Articles by other bloggers, Beginners, Writing Advice)

This is one of my favourite blogs, and it’s Australian. This post on how many points a fiction submission gets – or loses – made me laugh several times, but sadly every single point made in the article needs to be said. But most of all, dear reader, pay attention to Agent Sydney’s final plea to make sure your novel is fully baked before it gets sent.

Here’s how it goes:

1. Write novel. Edit if you must.

2. Wait several weeks/months.

3. Edit. Edit again.

4. Use beta readers – and not your mum, spouse (unless they actually criticize you, and do it well), or best friend – and edit again.

5. Send.




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When they come to you, ask yourself why

March 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm (Articles by other bloggers, Beginners, Writing Advice)

PS This is several hours early because CJ and Louisette and I will be travelling to Hong Kong tomorrow, and our housesitters have enough menial tasks to do without posting my blog for me.


Here is an article from an extremely helpful website, Writer Beware. It’s solid advice, because it is all too easy for us wannabes to fall for scams.

“I don’t often write posts like this, because it’s really like shooting fish in a barrel. And there are so many red flags here that savvy writers may wonder why I bother. But there are a lot of new writers searching for agents, many of whom are probably new to Writer Beware, and may not yet be clear on what to watch out for. I also think it’s important, every now and then, to emphasize the basics of author self-protection–because as cataclysmically as the publishing landscape is changing, the basic warning signs remain the same.”

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February 25, 2012 at 6:56 am (Beginners, Writing Advice)

Here is a GREAT article on some common publishing terms. Some definitions vary a little from company to company, so make sure you always read and follow their specific instructions.

Some of the most basic are:

Full: A full manuscript.

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see sub-genres like business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture, memoir, or current events.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Novel: Book-length fiction. Therefore, note that it is redundant to say “fiction novel.”

Partial: A partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a partial usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a partial usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Proposal.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to obtain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book. A query letter is your introduction and sometimes only contact with an agent and should not be taken lightly.

SASE: Short for self-addressed, stamped envelope, a requirement for any author who wants a reply to a snail-mailed query.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.


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How to get published

November 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm (Advanced/Publication, Beginners, Writing Advice)

Rachelle Gardner is an American Christian literary agent with a great blog. She wrote a post on how to get published, which is an excellent summary of the American system.

Australia is similar to the USA, except you don’t necessarily need an agent to get published (some choose to get an agent after having an offer for publication – agents are at their most useful when dealing with contracts), and the place to look for impartial advice is the Australian Society of Authors.


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The myth of self-publishing success

October 29, 2011 at 8:49 am (Advanced/Publication, Articles by others, Beginners, Writing Advice)

Hollywood and the media feed us a lot of rubbish. Every school classroom (particularly in a rough area) is full of world-class singers/dancers who simply don’t realise how amazing they are until a teacher inspires them to follow their dreams. Every socially awkward girl is actually stunningly beautiful after a haircut and some contact lenses. Every nerdy kid is actually a mathematical genius. . . and so on.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not true. You are almost certainly not a misunderstood genius. Even with a whole lot of hard work, you probably won’t win gold at the Olympics (you’d be amazed how many people don’t). And even if you spend a year – or five years, or even ten years – working on a book (or ten books) – you may not be very good.

I fully understand how hard it is to accept one’s own lack of writing talent – particularly after a lot of hard work towards a goal that other people seem to achieve so easily. A LOT of people don’t accept it – and so they blame mainstream publishing.

And thus is born the extremely powerful myth that self-publishing is the road to success. The few tales of actual self-publishing success are given a huge amount of media time, because they make a great story. The reason they make a great story is because they’re extremely, extremely rare.

Here‘s one of many true and rational articles standing up against the tidal wave of “believe in yourself and self-publish your way to fame and fortune” articles that we’ve all seen.

And here’s my cat, showing us a far likelier road to happiness:

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A writing scam? For ME?!?!

October 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm (Advanced/Publication, Articles by others, Beginners, Daily Awesomeness, Writing Advice)

A few days ago, I received my first ever personalised writing scam via email. Here is the full text of that email:

Dear Ms Curtis,

I am writing on behalf of a new international publishing house, JustFiction! Edition.

In the course of a web-research I came across a reference of your manuscript Worse Things Happen at Sea and it has caught my attention.

We are a publisher recognized worldwide, whose aim it is to help talented but international yet unknown authors to publish their manuscripts supported by our experience of publishing and to make their writing available to a wider audience.

JustFiction! Edition would be especially interested in publishing your manuscript as an e-book and in the form of a printed book and all this at no cost to you, of course.

If you are interested in a co-operation I would be glad to send you an e-mail with further information in an attachment.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards
Evelyn Davis
Acquisition Editor

Just Fiction! Edition is a trademark of:
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
Dudweiler Landstr. 99
66123 Saarbrücken

Phone: +49 681 3720-310
Fax: +49 681 3720-3109

Register court/number: Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10752
Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 12917

Partner with unlimited liability/Persönlich haftende Gesellschafterin: VDM Management GmbH
Register court/number: Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918

Managing directors/Geschäftsführer: Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, Christoph Schulligen, Esther von Krosigk

This is a fairly simple scam. They don’t charge money up front, but will presumably gain that cash by offering me copies of the book – probably at a reduced rate. The sales of that book to the author are probably the only sales that will ever happen. Interestingly, the first book in their “catalogue” was “published” less than a month ago. (Never publish with a company less than two years old and/or one that has no successful titles.)

It is clear from the email above that not only do they not bother with editing, they don’t actually bother READING the books they represent. In fact, my “manuscript” Worse Things Happen at Sea is a twitter tale – all of about 1000 words. They list a large number of distributors (many of which are probably actually wholesalers, meaning that they STORE books, not sell them – I strongly doubt any actually “distribute” books to bookshops). One of the American distributors sounded familiar, so I searched Writer Beware and found this excerpt about it:

Now, one of the tricky things in this industry is that one of the major players, Ingram, is both a distributor and wholesaler. They have separate arms to handle each. But, per the descriptions above, there’s a vast difference on what they do if you pay them to be your distributor, versus merely having a listing with them in their wholesale catalog.

Unfortunately, a lot of small presses and POD self-publishing companies try to make you believe they have the distributor relationship when, in fact, they have the wholesale relationship. Since Ingram won’t reveal its client list, it’s hard to know which is which. However, I believe that right now, Ingram requires that a publisher that’s a distribution client must have about $20K+ of income from Ingram in order to qualify. If you think logically, would even PublishAmerica, the powerhouse of POD presses, qualify? Probably not. PA has the titles, but not the sales.

Kids, here’s the take-home message: There are a lot of scams out there (plus, to make things worse, some helplessly naiive publishers who simply don’t have the business sense to function). Never forget that. If someone approaches you with a wonderful shiny offer, they have a reason, and – I’m sorry – it’s very rarely because your writing is as good as your dreams. Often people are dodgy even when it’s you approaching them (setting up a web site isn’t difficult). If their books aren’t on shelves at your bookshop, they’re not actually getting sold – and yours won’t be sold to the public either.

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Versatile Blogger Award

September 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm (Advanced/Publication, Articles by other bloggers, Articles by others, Beginners, Steampunk, Writing Advice, Writing Ranting)

I am, according to General Happenings in my House, hereby awarded a Versatile Blogger award! Thank you 🙂

My duties, upon receiving this much-coveted honour, are as follows:

1) Thank the awarder by linking back to their blog;

2) Pass on this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know I have done so;

3) List 7 things about myself.



Here are some great blogs (in no particular order):

1) Ripping Ozzie Reads – an accomplished group of Australian specfic writers (including Richard Harland, Rowena Cory Daniells, and Margo Lanagan) share their know-how.

2) Pub Rants – pub as in “publishing”. This is the blog of a US agent – again, lots of great advice.

3) KT Literary blog – another US agent (in fact, she is friends with # 2).

4) Nathan Bransford – US ex-agent and children’s author (again with the advice). He also runs great forums.

5) The Intern – this time it’s a US ex-intern, but her advice is still excellent (more on writing, less on the industry).

6) Behler Blog – this time it’s a US editorial director giving free industry help.

7) Writer Beware – there are a LOT of scams out there designed to prey on writers. This blog investigates, then tells the horrible truth.

8) Call My Agent! – more industry advice, but this time from an anonymous Sydney agent.

9) Terrible Minds – advice, interviews, and very rude rants from author Chuck Wendig.

10) Slushpile Hell – when a writer needs a little more sarcasm in their day.

11) Brass Bolts – a steampunk writer blogs about steampunk (the pics are especially good).

12) Trial by Steam – steampunk articles and events.

13) Multiculturalism for Steampunk – a seriously excellent and well-researched steampunk niche blog.

14) Antipodean Steampunk Adventures – an Australian steampunk who actually builds his own stuff.

15) Blue Milk – a feminist blog on motherhood (not always safe for work).

Well! That list certainly answers the question, “So, Louise, what do you do all day?”

Now for seven things about myself:

1) Umm. . . I attempted my first novel when I was seven years old (it was about a family of cats – naturally).

2) My mum read the Narnia series in hospital after giving birth to me (I’m re-reading it at the moment).

3) I speak semi-fluent Indonesian, and once considered marrying an Indonesian man I was close to.

4) I leave the curtains open until dark most nights in case the sunset is pretty.

5) Only one of my grandparents is still alive, and he is not well.

6) I can juggle.

7) I have pre-ordered “Goliath” by Scott Westerfeld; the third book in his brilliant YA steampunk trilogy (“Leviathan” is the name of the first book).

Thank you and good evening!

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Make me care

September 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm (Articles by others, Beginners, Writing Advice)

A story needs two things: An interesting character, and a serious problem.

“Interesting” and “serious” are where it gets more complicated.

Here is an article on how to make your reader care about your characters (by giving them a reason to care before the action explodes on the page). If they don’t care, they won’t read on.

Some other day I’ll talk about how to make readers care FAST – before you lose them. I reckon you’re lucky if you get two hundred words.


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The dreaded semicolon. . . of DOOOOOOOM!!!

August 13, 2011 at 8:47 am (Articles by others, Beginners, Writing Advice)

The semicolon has been known to divide loving families into shouting melees, and to send careers down in flames. It is the most contentious and passion-inducing piece of punctuation – and the most addictive.

How NOT to use a semicolon:

1. Frequently. I once had an editor add more than a dozen semicolons to a single page of a story (and there weren’t any lists). When I politely pointed out that he’d let his punctuation run away with him, he took another look and soon apologised profusely. My peeps, don’t let over-semicoloning happen to you!

2. To show off. This is particularly true in academia, where the person marking you has been scarred by both #1 and #3. Between Year 11 and the end of university (which was heavy on English courses) I discovered that a significant number of teachers and lecturers were so passionately opposed to semicolons – any semicolons – that they would mark essays more harshly if a single semicolon was spotted lurking (correctly or otherwise) in the text. For this reason, I did not use semicolons in essays for six years. I honestly recommend you do the same.

3. Incorrectly. If in doubt, use a comma. It will be correct.

Moving on, here is a simple tutorial on semicolons, with pretty pretty pictures to help you through the strain of intellectual effort on a Saturday morning. Enjoy.

And here is Ana. . . lurking like a semicolon gone bad:

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Death of “Traditional” publishing?

July 2, 2011 at 9:05 am (Advanced/Publication, Articles by other bloggers, Beginners, Writing Advice)

A whole lot of people point to success stories like the self-published Amanda Hocking and say, “Hah! Those cold-hearted publisher types are dying, and we laugh at them and stomp on their graves!”

These people are stupid.

I often wish publishers were more cold-hearted. They’d get through submissions way faster if that were the case. But if publishers were less in love with books, they would not be publishers. Small publishers are dying – they always have been, and they always will be. It is an extremely financially shaky business in which MOST BOOKS ARE BOUGHT AND SOLD AT AN OVERALL LOSS TO THE COMPANY. Sometimes, large publishers are unlucky and they die too. Most large publishers survive on the occasional how-did-that-happen-exactly? bestseller. In short, they survive by picking the best books they can, and then crossing their fingers and praying that THIS book is the one that keeps the company afloat for another month.

People think publishers are cold-hearted because over 90% of books are rejected, usually without stated reasons. People are constitutionally incapable of believing that THEIR sweet precious manuscript that took five years to write is, in fact, terrible. (“But my mum LOVED it!”) These people are especially offended that “bad” books are published. Having read unpublished manuscripts, I assure you that publishers set a standard that is largely consistent and has saved the reading public from worse pain than you can imagine. Self-publishing often lowers those standards to, “Do you have a few thousand dollars? Then you’re a published writer, yay!”

Personally, I don’t see rich idiots as a threat to the publishing industry. I know enough to be grateful for the gatekeepers – and secretly or otherwise, so does the entire reading public.

*personal rant over*

I like the Behler blog, and especially this article, which inspired today’s post.

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