Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 Questions...An aspiring writer should ask themselves before pursuing a career as a novelist.

1. Do you have the talent to be a professional novelist? I don’t mean, does your mother or spouse think you are a good writer but is your writing on par with novels, short stories and magazine articles that you’ve read. Or could it be, after you’ve studied the craft of novel writing, written a novel or two and understand how to write a properly plotted story with realistic dialogue and well-developed characters. Have you let anyone read what you have written? Have you received positive, encouraging feedback from an English professor, magazine editor, agent or anyone who should know good writing?

2. Do you have a passion for writing? Like most creative undertakings, writing is a passion project, usually a lifelong endeavor. Real writers have been writing since they could hold a pencil properly--poems, childish stories, journal entries, novels and the like. It is a part of them, a natural expression of who they are. And they write for themselves. They write for free. They write because they love the idea of putting pen to paper (okay, that’s rather archaic) or fingertip to keypad and creating a story from nothing. Passionate writers write because they don’t feel normal if they don’t.

3. Do you have the diligence required to study and learn the craft of writing? Writing is not easy. Oh, writing can be easy but committing to edit, write and re-write until your literary piece is polished like a crown jewel is not. There is a structure or structures to learn, the right one has to be selected for your genre and story. Creating the correct novel structure is almost a geometric calculation, but once you’ve got it…you’ve got it. Themes must be subtly laced through your story. And there is a knack required to create natural dialogue and develop interesting characters. It cannot always be taught but certain aspects can be learned. You must read books on writing, take classes or both and then practice, practice, practice. You must let others critique your writing and then you have to turn an objective eye to your own writing and revise, write and then revise some more.

4. Are you disciplined enough to write novels? Writing is lonely work. Do you work well independently? Can you create and meet self-imposed writing deadlines? Do you have a writing schedule that you adhere to; measured in a daily or weekly amount of hours, pages or words you must meet? Are you committed to writing a novel that will knock the proverbial socks off an agent and compel a publisher to buy your work?

5. Can you persevere? Can you continue to write when it matters to no one but you? Can you continue to write in the face of constant rejection? Sometimes spouses and family members will not take your writing serious. Agents will like but not ‘love’ your writing. Book publishers will not be able to ‘garner the support’ they’d hope to for your novel. You will lose faith in your own abilities and commitment. But ultimately the writing race is not to the swift…but time and chance…

If you have answered all five questions in the affirmative, writing may be the career for you.

Intern N

Friday, September 23, 2011

Open for Submissions

Get ready . . . get set . . . submit!

On October 1st, we will re-open to submissions. So get ready to send in your queries for new projects. Remember, we want email queries only. But take a minute first to check out the revised submission guidelines on our website, www.elaineenglish.com.

We’re limiting the kinds of works we’re going to represent going forward, so don’t assume that everything you’ve written we’re interested in seeing. We’re going to concentrate on romance, women’s fiction, and cozy mysteries only. For romance, we’re open to all the various subgenres from historical to contemporary, sweet to erotic, romantic suspense, paranormal, steam punk, and urban fantasy, just to name a few. The only exceptions are: we handle very little inspirational romance and if you write time- travel, your burden will be a bit harder, because we’re real skeptics. Cozy mysteries are those entertaining, relatively low-violence, who- done-it stories, typically featuring an amateur sleuth.

Women’s fiction is a bit harder to define, but I know it when I see it. It’s fiction about women and intended primarily for women readers of all ages. It’s often about relationships – mothers and children, families, even generations. It shows women discovering and taking up their place in the world. It can be set in historical, contemporary or futurist times, but the focus, and generally, the point of view of the story, is that of a woman.

Taking time off from submissions has given me a clearer perspective and helped me to focus on what’s really important. It also gave the agency a chance to completely catch up on submissions (can you imagine!) and to overcome the burn-out which seems to be an occupational hazard in this business. So reinvigorated, here we go. Send us your pitch and together let’s find the next great bestseller!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guest Blog - Perseverance by Hope Ramsay

Today, we're delighted to have Hope Ramsay as our guest. Sharing her story should bring both wisdom and encouragement to all authors. (We also thank her for the nice things she says about our agency!) Here's Hope . . .

This September, a dream came true for me with the publication of Home at Last Chance.

No, this book was not my first published work. And the book didn't win the Golden Heart in 2010, when it finaled in that contest. Nor was it the full manuscript that sold the Last Chance series.

But it was the book I believed in. Even when no one else did.

See, the original first chapter for this book was finished on April 4, 2001. I can pinpoint the date because that first draft still sits on my hard drive.

The first version of this book, originally entitled Rules of the Road was finished in 2004, and garnered me an agent, who worked diligently throughout 2005 and part of 2006 to sell this book. While she pitched editors I wrote another story featuring Tulane's older brother, Clay, that came to be known as Welcome to Last Chance.

Alas, Rules of the Road was rejected by just about every editor under the sun. The lack of enthusiasm for this book even carried over to the sequel. My agent explained, gently, that in 2006 editors weren't looking for romantic comedy, NASCAR set stories, or any kind of contemporary romance set in a small Southern town. Urban fantasy was in. If you didn't have a vampire you were not cool.

So, for three years, Rules of the Road, Welcome to Last Chance, and a third, earlier book entitled For Love or Money, languished on my hard drive while I wrote a couple of very long classic fantasies. Then, in 2009, in an act of utter desperation, I did two things: 1) I entered Rules of the Road in the Amazon Breakthrough Contest, and 2) I entered For Love or Money in the Golden Heart. To my utter astonishment Tulane's story made it into the final 100 entries of the Amazon contest. And then For Love or Money finaled in the Golden Heart.

Those contest results didn't directly lead to immediate success, but they convinced me to dust off those Rhodes Family manuscripts and seriously pitch them. So one day in April 2009 I sat down across a table from Elaine English and pitched Last Chance for the first time in years.

I was pretty sure that no agent would want this series, which had been so soundly rejected over the years. But Elaine surprised and reassured me. She asked to see them all.

And to my utter astonishment, she agreed to represent me. Then she turned her crew of readers lose on my manuscripts, and she and her readers gave me a road map for some serious edits that turned two of these books into part of the four book proposal that she shopped around in late 2009.

And then, in early 2010, nine years after I wrote the first draft of the first chapter of Tulane' s story, Forever Romance bought the book. And just a few weeks ago, I walked into Barnes and Noble and saw the book sitting right out front.

That was, without question, the most gratifying moment of my very short writing career.

Thank you Elaine. Thank you Forever Romance. This story of a good ol' boy in a pink car has always been near and dear to my heart. It took a long, long time to write and to sell. I had to rewrite it at least a dozen times. And yet, the first chapter, featuring Sarah and Tulane on an airplane, has changed almost not at all since it was first written down ten years ago.

This, I think, is a classic example of perseverance. If you have story that you believe in, never, never, never give up on it. One day you might sit down across a small table from someone and talk about that book, and suddenly, you'll find an ally who believes in it as much as you do.

And the rest will be history.