The Girl with the Green Pen

I know I said I’d post a query critique each Wednesday, but this week I’m bumping it out to Friday (sorry!) to share some news with you. One of my dear friends (and the person I often refer to as “Critique Goddess”) is launching a new website for writers, and I cannot say enough about how awesome her editing skills are. I rarely endorse things here, but if any of my writing pals are looking for a trustworthy editor with a proven track record, then Taryn (in my humble opinion) is the best.

Here are just a few of the things she’s doing: Taryn’s interning with an awesome agency, agented, a personal assistant to the lovely Genn Albin (debut author of CREWEL) and she’s also a college student. What. A. Slacker. 😉

I send her each of my manuscripts and am always blown away by the notes I get back. Seriously, Taryn knows her stuff. Okay, enough gushing!

Without further adieu, here’s a little bit about Taryn–aka Critique Goddess–in her own words.

Here’s my mission statement:

My mission is to guide writers through the daunting task of revision. From idea development to editorial feedback to general publishing advice, I love working with stories and those who create them. As a nationally ranked swimer, I know the value of time, so I believe in quick responses from the first email to the last.

I am not just another freelance editor. Beyond providing an experienced and thorough critique, my secondary goal is to establish a relationship with my clients. I want to support you throughout the stressful submission process and celebrate with you upon any and all good news. Writers may put pen to paper alone, but it is through a community that the book gets finished, polished, and submitted.

Why The Girl with the Green Pen? Why green?

Most edits are made with a red pen. If someone critiques your manuscript, s/he will most likely cover it with red ink, right? Not so much here. I make all my notes in green because I like to reflect the idea of moving forward. Green means go, it means new life. These are ways to think of your revisions, and this is how I like to think of the editing process.

But why are you leaving Teen Eyes?

I founded Teen Eyes in August 2011 to critique your YA manuscript from the perspective of a YA. Since then, I’ve expanded my interest in editing. Plus I’ll be 20 soon, so the “teen” part won’t work much longer. I still love Teen Eyes, but I wanted to do something bigger.

Here’s the link for Taryn’s site: Click here!

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Query Critique

The Original Query:

THE LOST STORY, completed at 80,000 words, is the tragic and triumphant story of Danielle (Dani) Caldwell, an American girl who meets a Cuban boy and falls in love, only to find their world-views divided over the Cuban Revolution.

The story opens in 1980.  Dani’s walking through the streets of Manhattan when she sees a man laying in a puddle on Wall Street, looking half dead, while passersby walk over him on their morning commute.  It’s enough to overcome her; to beckon her to the side of a man she doesn’t know.  She steps onto a metal bench, and as if it were her pulpit, pleads with the onlookers in defense of the broken man.

Some people say a radical is born in an instant, like a crime of passion, but for Danielle, her transformation begins when her mother gives her the gift of travel as a graduation present.  The year is 1958.  It’s the summer before the Cuban Revolution, Eisenhower is in office and there’s still a daily flight to Havana, Cuba.  Each year, a deluge of high rollers, high society and socialites descend on the Forbidden City; known for its legal gambling, glamourous nightclubs and white, sandy beaches. None of which Dani has any interest in experiencing, until she meets Jose Medeiro, a progressive, intelligent store owner who’s smitten with her.

In the heat of the Danze de Amore, under the moonlit skies of the Malecon, Jose breaks down Dani’s walls of reserve and steals her heart.  But when the American mob threatens the future of his family’s storefronts, Jose aligns himself with Fidel Castro, and the two young lover’s stars cross as their worlds collide.

Author Bio:

Name Withheld is a wife, mother and writer.  She has written mostly non-fiction for television, newspapers and websites.  She writes a monthly column for ____.com, focusing on lack of sleep, how potty training can save your marriage and other self-deprecating and humorous tales from the home.  She holds a master’s degree in converged journalism.

Thanks again,

Name Withheld

Contact information

The Query Critique:

Dear Ms. Agent’s Last Name,

THE LOST STORY, (what genre is it? i.e. THE LOST STORY is a YA Historical complete at… Maybe even give the agent an idea of which readers it will appeal to.) completed at 80,000 words. is the tragic and triumphant story of Danielle (Dani) Caldwell, an American girl who meets a Cuban boy and falls in love, only to find their world-views divided over the Cuban Revolution. (This is unnecessary “telling.” Your query letter should “show” the agent what your story is about. I’d totally cut this part out. Also, just as a personal preference, I’d put this down toward the bottom and open with your blurb, unless an agent states they like a more personalized greeting upfront.)

The story opens in 1980.  Dani’s walking through the streets of Manhattan when she sees a man laying in a puddle on Wall Street, looking half dead, while passersby walk over him on their morning commute.  It’s enough to overcome her; to beckon her to the side of a man she doesn’t know.  She steps onto a metal bench, and as if it were her pulpit, pleads with the onlookers in defense of the broken man. (I’m going to pause right here. So far this is a GOOD synopsis, but it’s not really a query. You want your query letter to read like the back of a book blurb.) 

What is your hook? Your hook needs to sum up the main conflict of your novel in a way that makes the reader (agent) want to read more…NOW. 

Example: Main Character has everything a sixteen-year-old could want…except for  _____.  (What is the main driving force of your novel? What does your MC want more than anything? What is the major conflict?)

To really show the agent what kind of novel you’ve written, adding a few extra details will immediately let them know what genre your book is. 

Ex: Jane Doe has everything a sixteen-year-old astronaut warrior wants…except for an alien annihilating spaceship.

Now the reader (agent) is grounded in this being some sort of science fiction or fantasy AND we know there’s a major conflict. An astronaut warrior without a spacecraft is quite an issue; how oh how will the MC go about securing themselves a spacecraft and kick some alien invasion butt? We can also assume it’s a YA book based on the MC’s age.

IF your hook is an “American girl and Cuban boy fall in love during the Cuban Revolution,” you’re going to need to flesh it out a bit more. Highlight the stakes and don’t be afraid to really let your conflict shine. Then build from there in the following sentences/paragraphs. SHOW the reader (agent) this amazing world you’ve built. (I.e. Is Dani a mobster’s daughter? If she is, and her family is threatening Jose, then that spells out MAJOR conflict.) 

Here are some helpful hints/questions to keep in mind while working on your blurb:

What is your hook?

What does your MC want?

What’s preventing your MC from getting what he/she wants?

What choice(s) does your MC face?

What happens if he/she doesn’t succeed?

If you can answer those questions your blurb will be in good shape. Moving along…

Some people say a radical is born in an instant, like a crime of passion, but for (insert her age here) Danielle, her transformation begins when her mother gives her the gift of travel as a graduation present.  (Okay. So I really like this paragraph. I’m thinking you can use this as your opening blurb and flesh this part out a bit more.) The year is 1958. It’s the summer before the Cuban Revolution, Eisenhower is in office and there’s still a daily flight to Havana, Cuba.  Each year, a deluge of high rollers, high society and socialites (using both “high-society” and “socialites” is redundant, eliminate one of those) descend on the Forbidden City; (a comma would work better here) known for its legal gambling, glamourous nightclubs and white, sandy beaches. None of which Dani has any interest in experiencing (why? I want MORE of her personality to shine through), until she meets Jose Medeiro, a progressive, intelligent store owner who’s smitten with her. (Is Jose her age? Is he a mysterious older guy? It’s unclear.)

In the heat of the Danze de Amore, under the moonlit skies of the Malecon, Jose breaks down Dani’s walls of reserve (how?) and steals her heart.  But when the American mob threatens the future of his family’s storefronts (why do the American’s threaten him?), Jose aligns himself with Fidel Castro, and the two young lover’s lovers’ stars cross as their worlds collide. (Is she a mobster’s daughter? If she’s not, I don’t really understand the tie-in with the mafia and how it challenges Dani and Jose. It kinda comes out of left field. How are their worlds colliding? Give the reader a hint more here. What happens next? What do they have to choose? End with the choice your MC will have to make. Does she have to choose her family or her love? And what are the consequences of her choices? You’ve got great bones in this section of your query letter, you just need to add more to flesh out the conflict.)

THE LOST STORY is a YA Historical Romance and is complete at 80,000 words.

Name Withheld is a wife, mother and writer.  She has I have written mostly non-fiction for television, newspapers and websites. (You might want to include which television shows/episodes, newspapers, etc. That way an agent knows if it’s national or local and the size of readership.) She writes I also write a monthly column for _____.com, focusing on lack of sleep, how potty training can save your marriage and other self-deprecating and humorous tales from the home.  She I holds a master’s degree in converged journalism. (Since this is a query letter, writing your bio in first person works well.)

Thanks again,

Name Withheld

Contact information

Okay! So I think with a few more tweaks (and fleshing out some of the details) this will really work. Here’s some of it without all my notes so you have a better idea of what it’ll look like. Take what you’ve got here and build up by applying those questions I mentioned earlier:

The query aftermath: 

Dear Ms. Agent,

Some people say a radical is born in an instant, like a crime of passion, but for Danielle, her transformation begins when her mother gives her the gift of travel as a graduation present.  The year is 1958.  It’s the summer before the Cuban Revolution, Eisenhower is in office and there’s still a daily flight to Havana, Cuba.

Each year, a deluge of high rollers, high society and socialites descend on the Forbidden City; known for its legal gambling, glamourous nightclubs and white, sandy beaches. None of which Dani has any interest in experiencing, until she meets Jose Medeiro, a progressive, intelligent store owner who’s smitten with her.

In the heat of the Danze de Amore, under the moonlit skies of the Malecon, Jose breaks down Dani’s walls of reserve and steals her heart.  But when the American mob threatens the future of his family’s storefronts, Jose aligns himself with Fidel Castro, and the two young lovers’ stars cross as their worlds collide.

THE LOST STORY is a YA Historical Romance and is complete at 80,000 words.

Author Bio:

Name Withheld is a wife, mother and writer.  She has written mostly non-fiction for television, newspapers and websites.  She writes a monthly column for ____.com, focusing on lack of sleep, how potty training can save your marriage and other self-deprecating and humorous tales from the home.  She holds a master’s degree in converged journalism.

Thanks again,

Name Withheld

Contact information

Thanks so much to the author of this (AWESOME sounding) novel for sharing your query letter with me. I hope this crit helps–keep up the amazing work!!!

I’ll be posting a new query letter critique each Wednesday from now through December. (With the exception of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.) 

If you’d like me to mark up your query letter (or first page) please send your work to Kerri.writes@gmail.com

Query Letter OR First Page Critiques…

Hey blog friends! LONG time no speak – color me embarrassed. Did I mention you look super cute today? AND CAN YOU BELIEVE IT’S November?! (HAPPY NaNoWriMo!)

As you know I was working on SECRET project, then I was editing SECRET project, then I started critiquing and beta’ing for a few of my friends/agent sisters, AND then there was a little hurricane that plowed through our area (Speaking of…if you’d like to donate please text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 contribution, every little bit helps!) needless to say, shiz got crazy here.

So…I was thinking of ways to make it up to you, my dear interwebs friends. SINCE it’s November and my wee little heart is getting filled with TONS of early holiday cheer, it’s the perfect time to help my writing friends out.

How?

I’m going to critique YOUR work. And, since I’m all about giving choices and options, you can either send me your query letter OR your first 250 words. (In the body of an email.)

Please note! By emailing me your first page OR query letter you are automatically giving me permission to post it on the blog.

Sound good?

If you’re nodding then let’s high-five right this second. Okay. SO…if you’d like me to mark up your query letter (or first page) please send your work to Kerri.writes@gmail.com

Please put “Query Crit” in the subject line. I will send you a confirmation once I receive your email. If you haven’t heard back from me within one day – I most likely didn’t get your email. Reach out to me here and I’ll contact you.

*While I’ll be posting your query letter (or first page) on the blog, all posts will remain anonymous (meaning I won’t be including your actual name or contact information on the blog).

I think that about covers everything, but if you’ve got any questions don’t hesitate to shoot me a comment here or contact me on twitter @KerriManiscalco or you can ask me on tumblr here. And if you know writer-ly types who are looking for an extra pair of eyes on their query letters, send them this link.

HAPPY EARLY HOLIDAYS, FRIENDS!!!!

Hunger Games text messages, pre BEA and Fun.

I’m not actually going, going to BEA this year (I know, I know I’m a terrible writer!)  – but I am meeting up with some pretty cool authors today. So I don’t have time for a real post, BUT I did find something that might make you smile on this Monday. Enjoy random Hunger Games text messages (that have absolutely nothing to do with BEA) from HungerGamesFandom.net.

Credit to tumblr

Here’s one of my favorite songs that again, has nothing to do with BEA or the Hunger Games. But it is a lot of fun…

Song: I wanna be the one

Band: Fun.

Video credit: ‘s youtube channel.

Publishing trends may come and go, but honesty always prevails.

Publishing trends may come and go, but honesty always prevails. Here’s why. (In my opinion.)

Every writer published, or unpublished fears the dreaded T word. TREND. Just mentioning t-who-should-not-be-named makes my stomach twist in a knot. Advice is dispensed by everyone and their mother on the subject, but what happens when the story that’s itching to be told happens to be in a hot genre du-jour?

Write it anyway. (Waits for tomatoes to be thrown at screen.)

Write it, and make it the best freaking [insert genre here] novel it can be. Will it be harder to get an agent, or a publishing contract? Probably. But isn’t that already super difficult? Put your original spin on it and don’t hold back. Maybe it won’t sell now, but fear not–publishing is a cyclical industry. Your time will eventually come. In the meantime, keep writing! (And revising;))

Personally, I write YA light science fiction, speculative fiction, and dark fantasy. I’m not writing to a trend. Actually — if I’m being honest — I’ve been trying to write a contemporary young adult novel, but it never works out. Something always goes all fantastical in my brain. I. Can’t. Help. It.

Believe me, if I could write about lofty romances set in Europe, I so would. I think those stories are amaze balls, and I adore reading them. Deep down I’m a closet romantic. I’m also totally jealous of writers who can capture true-to-life contemporary novels. Holy crap, I WISH I could do that.

But I’ve never been that girl, fictional or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I seriously respect people who can write epic love stories historical, contemporary, or what-have-you. My early attempts at writing things like that were often met with furrowed brows. And comments like, “This is your happy story? But you’re talking about things that are…writhing around on top of burning embers…”

Sigh.

The hardest part about being an author, is finding your authentic voice and honoring it. No matter what.

That being said, I have to believe that what I’m writing passionately about will find its way into others hearts, as well (eventually). Trend, or not.

If I am a science fiction/fantasy writer by nature, wouldn’t I be doing everyone a disservice by trying to genre jump — just because the next [not-yet-hot-genre] might be an easier sale?

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But I am sure of one thing: the best things I’ve ever written have come from that unabashedly honest writing place within me. Blood, guts, and all. It’s where my voice truly comes alive.

With my latest project, agents are noticing that honesty. I credit not holding back (for fear of how it may, or may not be received) for my current request rate. (Just thinking about it is sending my heart into crazy palpitations. Inhale. Exhale.)

I think the best writing and publishing advice is this: be one-hundred percent honest with your writing. Write from your heart, people will notice. I think no matter the trend, if you stay true to yourself, eventually your time will come.

Never be afraid to keep improving your craft, though. Know that you’re an amazing writer, but there’s ALWAYS room to grow. (Myself, very much included!! :)) When all else fails, start your next project. Every new book is a stepping stone. Trust me all those stones will lead to good things. Each new project will teach you precious writing techniques. Also, don’t forget to READ!! Devour everything you can, you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll gain from reading in your genre (and beyond).

No matter what subject you choose to write about, be brave. Be bold. And revise the hell out of your manuscripts. Have a fantastic day loves. XO

What are your thoughts on writing trends? Are you finding that (even writing in your authentic genre) it’s harder to break into the publishing industry, now more than ever? 

Or… has the only thing that’s really changed is our ability to openly commiserate communicate (via social networking) about the whole publishing process?

Road to Joy

My latest novel is almost through with final edits and is just pending one last critique. *SQUEEEE* It’s always great finishing a book, until that nagging urge to write another pops up (almost IMMEDIATELY). But, I promise I’ll enjoy the feeling of triumph. Today at least. 🙂

Here’s a song for anyone else experiencing their own ‘Road to Joy’. Happy Friday, hope you have a really great weekend. XO

Artist: Bright Eyes

Song: Road to Joy

Video credit: gurkmannen37’s youtube channel

Oceans and streams and crits for water

Photo credit mycharitywater.org

When people reach out to do good for others, it warms my freaking little heart like you wouldn’t believe. Therefore, I want to share with you something I’m seriously crushing on. There are only a few days left of the crits for water fundraising campaign, so don’t wait to check it out. Agent critiques, Author critiques, and so much more.

Here’s some information taken from The Flighty Temptress Blog: 

charity: water is a non-profit that is dedicated to bringing clean water to the estimated 1 billion people on earth who do not have access to it.  My favorite part about charity: water, is that all donations go directly towards the field, that is: building wells, sanitation projects, good hygiene, etc.  They are a very transparent charity, one of the most transparent in the world.

Find out more information about the founding of charity water here. It’s really inspirational.

To date (December 30, 2010) charity: water has built/funded nearly 4000 water projects around the world, though mostly in Africa.  They have helped more than 1.7 million people avoid water-borne diseases and develop good hygiene practices.

There are three more awesome chances for crits left!!! (not to mention the awesome Kat Brauer also does Kat-crits, but only until the 30th!)

Here’s the current auction on her blog: The roctastickness that is Agent Savant, Laurie McLean, is offering a THREE chapter and TWO page synopsis critique via AUCTION for Crits for Water. This can be from the following genres: adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, thriller, mystery, horror, science fiction) or young adult (teen). The auction starts now and will end at 11:59pm on June 24, Eastern Time.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE AUCTION AND HER SUPER FAB SITE!!! The caps were necessary, because I’m super excited. Go donate whatever you can for such an awesome cause. Happy weekend!!! <3333333