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The Writing Website that Changed My Life

25 Sep

Today’s post is simple – I’m going to direct you to the blog that totally changed the way I think about story. Once I stumbled across this site, it was like my writing eyes were opened.  People pay money to take writing classes. I’m telling you, this site is free and has better information!

Here it is.

Check it out. Browse around. And subscribe! I promise this will boost your writing. Here are some of my favorite articles:

Introducing the Four Parts of Story

Characters – How to Make Your Readers Love ’em Instead of Leave ’em

Drumroll… Introducing the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling

If you don’t do anything else, read these. It could change your writing life!

What writing websites have given you a leg up? I would love to check them out!


Is this Agent Reputable? Do I Really Need an Agent?

21 Aug Is this agent reputable? Do I really need an agent?

This is the last post in the literary agent series, and here you can read about query letters and finding an agent if you missed them.

So first off, how do you know if an agent is reputable? There are a lot of scammers out there. Luckily for us, there are some simple things that a reputable agent will NOT do and some things that they WILL do that will tell you they’re the real deal.

A reputable agent will not:

  • Charge a reading fee: If an agent asks you for money before they’ll read your book, run! They will take your money and say no to your project, because they’re not really an agent.
  • Refer you to an editorial service that charges a fee: Some scammers will say that they love your work, but it needs a little help. If you send it to this editor and pay for them to work on your book, then the agent will represent you. Don’t fall for this! Good agents will not ask for your money at all. Basically, if the agent mentions a fee, get out of there.

A reputable agent will:

  • Earn their money by taking 10 to 20% of your book sales: Real agents will take a small percentage of everything that your book makes. This will be 10 to 15% for home sales and usually 20% for foreign sales.
  • Sometimes be a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives): This is an association that agents can join that says they’ve agreed to respect your rights. Be aware that not all good agents are a part of this, so don’t say no to them just because there’s no AAR stamp on their profile.

Now, do you really need an agent? You decide. Here’s everything an agent will do:

  • Get your book in front of publishers: Many of the best publishers won’t even look at your book unless an agent puts it in front of them. So if you want a medium to big name publisher, you need an agent.
  • Auction your book: A book auction is where your agent goes to a bunch of publishers and tries to get the best deal with the biggest advance for you. You can’t do that for yourself. Plus, your agent will already have contacts in the publishing business that you don’t have.
  • Negotiate for your sub rights: Agents will battle with the publisher to get you the best contract, retaining as many of your sub rights as possible. Sub rights can make you a lot of money! These are film, audio, sometimes even foreign sales.
  • Keep track of the publishing process: Your agent will follow up on payments and bug publishers until the money comes in. They will keep track of key dates, make marketing plans with you and your editor, and basically mediate between you and the publisher in your interest. This is huge!

If that hasn’t convinced you, I seriously don’t know what will. Agents are awesome. Next week, on to a new topic!

Where Can I Find an Agent? Is this Agent Right for Me?

14 Aug Where can i find an agent? How do I know if this agent is right for me?

Tough questions. Let’s look at the answers!

So, first off, where can you find an agent? These are three fantastic resources.

  • Literary Agent Undercover: This link will take you a list of the top fifty agencies. Once you’ve got the perfect query, start at number one. You never know if you’re going to be accepted or rejected unless you try!
  • Agent Query: This is sort of like an agent search engine. You type in your genre and a number of other factors and it will give you a huge list of agents that fit your needs who are looking for new clients.
  • Writer’s Conferences: These places are crawling with agents! Attend as many as you can, and have a short spiel about your book prepared. You’ve already written your query, so just put it into spoken form, and keep it short. If the agent is interested, they’ll ask you to send them more. When send your stuff, be sure to mention that they met you and requested your work. Goodbye, slush pile!

Once you get that magical call from an agent who wants to represent you, how do you decide that they are really the right one for you? It’s soooo tempting to just say yes, but there are some big, red warning signs you should watch out for. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all.

  • Warning Sign #1: Your personalities clash. Talk to them over the phone and get to know them a little. Do they seem like someone you could work with long term?
  • Warning Sign #2: The agent is a noob. New agents will have a teeny tiny client list and next to zero experience. Don’t say yes to them. They do not have the connections you need to succeed at publishing.
  • Warning Sign #3: The agent has a bajillion clients. They like your work, so they’ll say yes just so they can stick it on their shelf and come back to it when they have time.
  • Warning Sign #4: Do they have a plan for submitting your book to publishers? If the answer is vague or just a flat out no, a red flag should be waving in your brain.

What resources have you used to find agents? What other questions can you think of to ask when an agent offers representation?

How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter

7 Aug how to write a query letter

Ok, guys. Here’s how the next few weeks are going to go.

Today we’re talking about query letters – that was the most popular question from the agent poll. (If you didn’t get a chance to put in your two cents, now is the time!) Next week we’ll talk about where to find an agent and how to know if an agent is right for you. Then we’ll touch on how to tell if an agent is reputable and whether you really need an agent.

Alrighty! Let’s get on to query letters.

A query letter has to tell an agent in three paragraphs what your story is about, and it’s got to blow their mind. Here’s how to do that.

Part One: the Opening

Start with “Dear ‘agent’s name’”. It’s tempting to send out a mass email to tons of agents, but agents like to know that you want them. (It is ok to send out query letters to multiple agents – just don’t do it in the same email. I know, I know. It’s a pain.)

Then in a sentence or two tell them the title, genre, and word count of your novel, and let them know that the complete manuscript is available. These are all things they’ll want to know before they even consider your story.

Part Two: the Meat

Time to sum up your book. You will not be able to tell them everything about your story, so focus in on what makes it unique and interesting. Try writing three or four summaries, each highlighting a different aspect of your novel, and see which one works best.

Leave them hanging. A query letter is not a synopsis, so you don’t necessarily have to tell them the end. Make them want to read more.

Write your summary in present tense, third person. DON’T deviate from this, no matter how much you want to. Agents are used to reading query letters in this format.

Keep the number of characters and new names you introduce to a minimum, 3 to 4, never over that. Let’s not confuse the agent.

Use an appropriate tone for your genre. Show them that you know how to write! Your query should use a voice like the tone of your book. If you’re worried about this with the present tense, third person thing, write your query letter in first person in the voice of one of your characters. Then go back and switch all the pronouns and things so that it’s in third person.

Part Three: the Ending

Now you’ve just got to tell the agent of any writing experience you have. I know this is tough, especially for first-time authors. Keep in mind that this section doesn’t have to be long or impressive. Your story is the most important factor in catching an agent’s attention.

Highlight any writing education you have. Got a writing degree? If not, I’m sure you’ve taken some writing classes. You can also mention any other education you’ve got that will pertain to your story. You have a character who’s a doctor, and you’ve got a PhD? Add that. If not, leave it out! They won’t care what education you have if it doesn’t have to do with your story.

Talk about any contests you’ve won and any previous publications you’ve had. Have you published a short story? Have you self-published?

To close, say why you think this agent would be a good fit for your story. Mention that you’ve looked at their site and know that they are looking for books in your genre.

Last, thank them for their time.

This is a little scary for me, but below is my query letter that I’m sending out to agents right now. Take a look at it. See how I’ve put these things into practice. Please comment with your suggestions!

Dear (Agent’s Name),

Bonded is a YA Sci-Fi, complete at 52,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Shalayn and Heem were born Bonded, linked telepathically, something that’s never happened before. No one can figure out why.

They’re going to the school where people learn to make the Bond, since they want to get better at using it. The only thing is, normally people make the Bond when they graduate, where they choose their Bonding partner and… marry them.

Heem and Shalayn aren’t married, of course, but when everyone else who’s Bonded is married… it’s not exactly easy for them to make friends.

Shalayn doesn’t know if she has to marry Heem or what. Plus, there’s this really cute guy in one of her classes.

Sometimes Shalayn wonders if she might be more popular… more accepted… if it wasn’t for Heem. She feels terrible for thinking that, and she has to keep those thoughts buried down deep so they never slip through the Bond.

What would Heem think if he knew Shalayn had a crush on another guy?

And then there’s Enemar Melevrin. He’s not Bonded, but he can do everything someone who’s Bonded can and more. He can take over people’s minds and turn them to his side or stop their heart. And he just escaped from prison.

Enemar hates the Bonding school, and he’s going to try to get revenge. When Enemar finds out that Shalayn and Heem are Bonded at such a young age, he begins to wonder if they might be the only ones powerful enough to stop him.

They are his next targets.

I took a writing course from Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, who critiqued parts of Bonded. He loved the voice and the characters, and I hope you enjoy them, too. Bonded is a stand-alone novel but has series potential.

I feel that Bonded would fit well with you since you like YA and science fiction. Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jessica Flory

Everything You Wanted to Know About Agents

31 Jul

Lately I’ve been trying to find an agent, and, man, it’s hard! There are so many things to think about, so many things to research. I’ve been doing a TON of work to figure this out, and I want to make things easier for you.

That’s why I’m going to be writing a series of posts all about helping you find an agent.

So, I want to know where you’re at. What questions do you have that you’re dying to have answered? Do me this favor, and make it easier for me to help you!

Tell me which of the questions below you most need answered.


Please, comment below if you have any other questions or suggestions. Thanks for your help, everyone!

How to Make the Most of Your Writing Group, and How it Can Ruin Your Story

10 Jul

Last week we talked about how to find a writing group. Now it’s time to look at how to make the most of that writing group and some issues to watch out for.

When You’re Critiquing

Be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Describe how you’re feeling in different scenes. Point out problems where you see them, but don’t try to solve them. Only the author knows where the story is going.

Try to view things in the context of the book, from the target audience’s point of view. Try to see where the writer is coming from. If they write young adult and you write adult, don’t tell them that their book isn’t long enough and that their voice is juvenile. Try to read the book like you were its target audience, keeping in mind that not every story is for every reader. Even if you hate it, it might still be good stuff.

Don’t forget to say good things as well as bad. If someone just told you everything they hated about your book, you’d feel like a rotten writer. And it’s important to know what’s working as well as what’s not.

When You’re Being Critiqued

If you’re in a group that meets in person, don’t interrupt anyone critiquing you. Don’t try to defend yourself, don’t try to explain. If they don’t understand things the way you thought they would, take that as an opportunity to try again. If you explain what you meant, you ruin the chance to see if you could write things in a different way that they would understand.

Be sure to write down everything. Even if you think they’re wrong, write it down. Look over things later and decide what advice you agree with.

What to Watch Out For

Writing groups are bad at judging pacing. Most likely, you’re in a writing group that will read your novel chunks at a time. They won’t be able to help you much where pacing is concerned, though they might try. Don’t put too much weight on their opinions.

Know that in writers groups it’s common for the members to pick up on a certain aspect of your writing and harp on it. Someone will comment that your prose is too flowery one week, and then another person will see that and comment on it the next week. The problem can seem bigger than it really is.

Some people will get caught up in the vision of your story and try to tell you where it should go. Listen to their ideas and write them down. Heck, they might even be good, but don’t incorporate anything into your story unless you’ve thought long and hard on it. If you added in every suggestion, you’d end up with a draft that went all over the place! So, smile and nod and write down everyone’s ideas, but then maybe ignore them.

Anyone else had problems like these in their critique group? How did you get around them?

How to Find a Writing Critique Group

3 Jul

“Finding friends to read through an entire novel might be tricky…” That was a comment from Pinar Tarhan on How to Ruin Your Novel. And it’s so true! But writers are terrible at judging their own work. Even if your friends and family do read your novel, chances are that they aren’t writers. They won’t be able to give you the best feedback.

If you have a critique group, you will be in much better shape. They will be more willing to read your stuff if you’re willing to do the same thing for them, and they will read your novel with a writer’s eyes.

So if you aren’t part of a critique group, what are the best ways to find one?

Take a Writing Class

Spend the money to take a class from your local community college. Most likely, your teacher will put you into critique groups, and you will get to know the people in your class, their writing style, and the ones you work well with. If things mesh, you can continue that writing group even after the class is over.

Attend Local Writing Conferences

Writing conferences are where lots of writers, agents, and editors, gather to attend writing workshops and classes. They hold these nationally, but the local ones will be better for finding a critique group. You’ll have a chance to meet other writers that live in your area. Here is a great website where you can search by region for local writing conferences.

Join an Online Critique Group

Though I recommend meeting in person, sometimes that’s just not an option. And online critique groups can be way helpful! You can post your work, a whole chunk or a piece at a time, and other online users will give you feedback. Don’t worry! Most of these sites will allow you to keep your copyright so that you can publish your work somewhere else.

Here are a few online critique groups I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Internet Writing Workshop: Here you have to do a minimum amount of submissions and critiques of other people’s work per month to stay a member. People will always have motivation to critique your work! You’ll have to critique other people’s work, too, but that in itself can be really useful. Looking at new author’s writing and finding their mistakes can help you improve your own writing.
  • Critique Circle: This is similar to the Internet writing workshop, but you don’t have to do a minimum number of submissions and critiques. So, if you want to critique and be critiqued only every once in a while, this is the way to go.
  • If neither of these work for you, here’s a great thing to do. Go to Yahoo, click on groups, and search writing critique groups. This comes up with a huge list. Here’s a link to the search that I did.

Critique groups can be so helpful, but they’re hard to find. I hope that one of the above options works for you!

One last thing! Last week I guest posted on, one of my favorite story help websites ever. Check it out to read “What to Do if You Hate Your Novel”.

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