The Helpful Agent

Monday, February 24, 2014

As I've been working my way through reading and commenting on manuscripts this past week, I've been thinking about the editorial notes I've been giving my authors and the categories they fall into.  When it comes to particular flaws or problems in a manuscript, there are definitely some that I see over and over again, and I thought it might be helpful for those of you who are revising without an agent (or just to writers who are revising in general) for me to talk a bit about them.

1. Show; don't tell.
When you are writing make sure that you are not just spouting description or telling your reader how your character is thinking, feeling, etc.  Use sensory and showing description to allow your readers to get inside your character and feel as if they truly know him and understand him.  It is kind of like the difference between talking at someone and talkingwith them.

2. Get more into your character's mindset so that the reader can connect with him/her.
This usually involves making use of showing instead of telling, but also to devoting time to your character instead of your plot (although this time with your character will of course be integral to your plot in many ways).  Make sure that you are making your character a person, rather than simply a character, that is three-dimensional and relatable in some way.

3. Make the focus of the story tighter and eliminate unnecessary plot lines.
As you write, be sure that you always keep in mind what the main focus of your story is and try to keep the narrative going in that direction.  What is your story about?  Who is important?  Don't give in to the desire to share every single possible thing that occurs - hone the story so that is it moves at a fast pace and engaging.

4. Be critical with edits - don't just think as a writer but as a editor with commercial elements in mind.
When editing your story, put your business hat on.  If a piece of writing is incredibly gorgeous but is unnecessary to the plot and drags the story down, cut it!  Keep in mind what is critical to keep your audience turning the page and be sure to think of what makes your story commercially successful and viable.  Those elements will be important just as important for attracting agents and editors as the beauty of the writing.

5. Careful of overdoing description or plot - don't stray into fandom.
It is easy to get caught up in your story and your characters, but be careful that you don't let yourself get carried away!  Like the idea of keeping the focus of your story tight, don't fall so in love with your quirky, funny character that you turn him into a caricature rather than a real person.  Similarly, don't let yourself get carried away with overdone descriptions that the reader will skim over to get to the action.

6. Create tension and emotion.
Again, this all ties into the idea of not overdoing description, having a strong focus, and showing instead of telling.  Your reader will not be captivated if there is nothing that constantly propels the plot forward, whether that be friction between characters, a heated romance, or a scary situation.  Make sure your writing is active, i.e. has plenty of dialogue to counterbalance descriptive moments, as well.

7. Know your genre.
This is so important.  For instance, if you are writing a middle grade novel, make sure you know the difference between middle grade and YA.

Well, that's my advice for the week!  If you have any questions about what I've written about (or if I've done a horrible job explaining something), let me know in the comments section!

Ask Carrie!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Slowly but surely working my way through all the manuscripts in my "To Read" folder.  

I've been finding such great stories in my submission inbox lately; Dean's and Jessica's books are publishing soon; and I'm also hopeful for a couple sales in the near future, so I'm feeling really good about all things agenty!

Which reminds me: I read Jeff's post about commenting on agents' blogs not too long ago, and it made me think about my blog.  I originally started it because I felt like people didn't really know what it was like to be a new agent.  Even I didn't at first.  Before I interned at Writers House, I kind of thought agents just read all day.  Which they do, but in addition to a hundred other things--and for me that includes answering phones at a restaurant, tutoring, and sometimes the odd babysitting job...not what you expected, right?

That's not me...yet ;)

But when reading Jeff's post, I noticed how he talked about types of agent blogs, and how some of them use their blogs to show people how to write great query letters or to teach them things about the market.  That sounds very magnanimous of them, and I wonder if I should try and steer my blog's focus more towards helping people, rather than just writing about my own life.  There are so many advice blogs, though.  What do you guys want to know about?  

Also, for anyone out there who is wondering, I do love seeing lots of comments on my blog, so always feel free to let me know your thoughts on whatever I'm writing about!  In fact, this week and forevermore, I'm turning the comments section into a Q&A forum.  Ask me any writing/publishing questions you have regardless of whether they are related to what my post is about, and I will answer them, and possibly draw inspiration for my next helpful blog post from them!

Lots to Do!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Life can be very random sometimes.  I always seem to find that I get offers for book deals when I least expect them.  In that vein, I am so happy that Sara and I will be working with Kelly Loughman from Holiday House on Sara's book, UNNATURAL SELECTION.  I am looking forward to hammering out the contract and getting all the other big details figured out!


It is one one a very long list of things to do.  I'm not necessarily a conspiracy theorist, but I firmly believe that all my authors secretly get together and pre-determine specific weeks when they will all send me their revisions at once.  Individually, I am very excited to see the changes made to their books, but when I get six or eight emails in a row with new versions attached, I admit, I start to panic and say, "Go away!  Go away!"  ::makes shooing motion with hands::

I am taking a leaf out of the restaurant bar's policy to handle the chaos: first-come, first-served.  So, my lovely authors, don't get too antsy if you notice it's taking me longer than normal to get back to you.  You just have a spot farther back in the queue!


And finally, something non-book related: I'm not sure exactly how this came about, but I have a tattoo!  

I take that back - I do know how it came about, I wasn't drugged and kidnapped by tattoo artists, but I'm surprised at myself for going for it so sporadically.  As my close friends know, I've half-heartedly considered getting some kind of tattoo for the past decade but never done it (kind of the same deal with my ears, except that they're still un-pierced).  Well, I got in a really tattoo-y mood over the weekend, thought of a design on Friday, booked a consultation at Kings Avenue Tattoo on Saturday, and got it done on Tuesday!  I feel so wild!

And Without Further Ado...

Monday, February 3, 2014



Hurrah for Sara Joiner and her wonderful novel, UNNATURAL SELECTION.  This historical fiction middle grade introduces us to Charles Darwin-loving Katrien Courtlandt, who lives in the Dutch East Indies, and what happens after volcano Krakatoa erupts and the only person who will agree to her plan of following the animals deeper into the island's jungle is her prim-and-proper nemesis.  I love this book and am so thrilled that she has an offer for it, and that I am kicking off 2014 with a sale :)

In other equally exciting news, I have new clients.  Very happy to announce that I have just signed the wonderful Jeff O'Handley.  Jeff was my first and only follower on this blog for a long time, and his book BARTON'S WOMEN is actually the second project that he's sent me.  He's a really great writer that is able to get under the skin of his characters and I'm happy to be representing him.

I also signed Bridget Baker last week!  I met her awhile ago at a Backspace conference, and have been working unofficially with her on edits for her YA project MARKED for some time now.  I love, love, love this story (it's kind of like THE HUNGER GAMES meets 28 DAYS LATER) and know that I will enjoy continuing to work on it with her.

All of this fun stuff has put me in a very bubbly mood.  Book deals for everyone!

For you, and you, and you, and you!
 
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