Tag Archives: manuscripts

How to Fail as a Writer

Here are a few ways to ensure you fail as a writer. Let me know if you can think of a few more.

1. Start your novel off with plenty of back story. After all, your readers will want to know all that before they actually get to the exciting stuff. Under no circumstances, jump right into the inciting incident so that you can grab the reader’s attention immediately, and keep them flipping pages and salivating to find out more.

2. Don’t bother to write more than your first draft. You find it interesting, so of course everyone else will. There may be logistical problems with your story, but hey! the reader can figure it out. Why bother with having someone critique it, and why bother writing a second, third, or fifth draft so that the story is compelling, thrilling and exciting.

3. Spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical errors – who cares about them. Of course, it’s quite easy to use spellcheck – but really, why bother?  What’s important is the actual story, so readers won’t care.

4. Writing is an art form, so working on your novel should only be done when the muse smacks you over the head. There is no hard work involved, no craft to learn. It’s easy peasy, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. All those great writers like John Steinbeck and Hemingway – well, the prose just flowed out of them. It was a gift. They didn’t do any work, why should you?

5. Reading is for chumps. If you read the type of stories you like to write, it will hinder your ability to be original. Just write what you know, and others will read it when it is published – because of course your novels will be published – you’re that good, and everyone will know it immediately.

6. Make sure your ending fizzles out. After all, the ending isn’t that important. Readers don’t care. They don’t want to close a book feeling satisfied, do they?

7. You’ve written your manuscript – it’s your first draft, not proofed, not critiqued, but you know it’s good and every literary agent is waiting with bated breath to sell it to the highest bidder. Don’t bother researching agents to find out who represents your genre; don’t bother writing a proper query and don’t bother finding out how to spell the agent’s name. You’re a shoo-in.

Writers – what do you think?

You might also like these posts from Writer’s Digest:


Pacing Your Novel

snoreZzzz, Wheeze, Snort, Snuffle.

That’s your reader falling asleep because your novel has become boring, ho-hum and downright dull. You are sure your story is interesting, you are certain your plot line is full of conflict and your characters are quirky so why is your reader off to Snoozeville?

It is probably because of PACING. If you want to keep that reader turning pages and salivating for more of your words, then you need to recharge your novel by adding different rhythms, action and sizzle to your story.

Crafting Your Novel – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9) details here
Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) details here

Every chapter – indeed, every paragraph and scene, must keep that reader glued to the page. If you can achieve that, your novel has flow and pacing. Pacing is when your reader gets so caught up in the story and begins to identify with the characters. He/she becomes hooked.

5 Tools to Master Pacing


Try writing your action scenes with short, choppy sentences so the reader is immersed in what is happening. This is not the time for long descriptions or internal thoughts. Allow the reader to experience the danger, the conflict, the scrappiness of the action.


This may sound crazy to a budding novelist, but every chapter, indeed every scene should have some kind of cliff hanger to keep the reader engrossed. This does not mean that every scene or chapter should end in a ‘Who shot J.R.?’ scenario. It can be something small like a surprise, a revelation or a threat.

  1. PING-PONG DIALOGUEping pong

A rapid back-and-forth exchange will get the point across quickly and infuse the scene with tension. Take this example from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book:

            He tipped his head to one side as if he was listening to something. “They’re hungry,” he said.

            “What are?” asked Nick.

            “The things in the cellar. Or belowdecks. Depends whether this is a school or a ship, doesn’t it?”

            Nick felt himself beginning to panic. “It isn’t … spiders … is it?” he said.

            “It might be,” said the other boy. “You’ll find out, won’t you?”

The scene is building and the reader is starting to get as nervous as the boy.


Cut from the main plot to a sub-plot to keep the reader hungry for what comes next. Just as he or she gets cozy with what is happening, it’s time to jump to another scenario. Keep it edgy and the story moving rapidly forward.


punchThe words and particularly the verbs you choose can help keep the pace of the book rolling crisply along. Onomatopoeic verbs like slam, crash, lub-dub, crackle, all convey sensation which is what you are striving for. Play up the spirited, lively sentences and keep them short to add drama and conflict. Fragmented sentences should not be used often, but when they are used, they can add a dash of spice to the prose.

And last, but not least, try and write in the active voice as much as possible.

New Literary Agents

New literary agents are a blessing for writers who are looking for agents. Since they are actively looking for clients, new writers have a better chance at having their work read. If you have a query, synopsis and completed manuscript, check out the names below and see whether any of these literary agents are a match for you.

Sandy Harding of Spencerhill Associates

Sandy Harding

Literary agent Sandy Harding is seeking mainly upmarket commercial and literary fiction for the adult market. She enjoys women’s fiction for book clubs, smart page-turning thrillers, works of suspense with complex protagonists, mysteries of all sorts (cozies, historical, traditional), and romance. Most of all she’s seeking writing with a voice so penetrating and a story so captivating the reader simply must keep reading.

To query: email submission [at] spencerhillassociates.com. Put ‘Query for Sandy: [TITLE]” in your subject line. Send the query letter in the body of an email and attach the first three chapters and synopsis preferably in .doc, rtf or txt format to your email

Let her know if the submission is simultaneous. If interested, the agency will contact you within 12 weeks.


Caitlin McDonald of Donald Maass Literary

caitlin-mcdonald-photo-480x480Literary agent Caitlin McDonald is looking for all science fiction and fantasy fiction (and subgenres) for adult, YA, and MG — especially secondary world fantasy and alternate history. She is also seeking genre-bending or cross-genre fiction, and stories that examine tropes from a new angle as well as diversity of all kinds, including (but not limited to) race, gender, sexuality, and ability, in both characters and world-building

She is not interested in women’s fiction, crime fiction, picture books or chapter books, screenplays or short stories

To query: email query.cmcdonald [at] maassagency.com with the query letter, synopsis, and the first ten pages of your novel pasted into the body of the email.


Julie Stevenson of Waxman Leavell Literary

julie-stevenson-literary-agentLiterary agent Julie Stevenson is on the lookout for upmarket fiction, literary fiction, adult thriller/suspense, memoir, young adult, middle grade and picture books.

To query: email juliesubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com

For fiction, you may include 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. Please do not query more than one agent at this agency simultaneously. Due to the high volume of submissions, agents will reach out to you directly if interested. The typical time range for consideration is 6-8 weeks.


2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript

Beginning Your Novel

Beginning Your Novel

Beginning your novel  is like the prelude to sex for the first time.

reptile-398073__180Your blood begins to rush, your toes curl up and your every nerve is on fire. What will happen? Will it be fun and exciting? Will I be disappointed? Will it be memorable?

Just like sex, you believe you have control over the situation but in the throes of passion who knows what can happen. In the same way, as you sit at your desk plotting and planning the characters you are bringing to life suddenly take off with a mind of their own and begin telling their own story.  If the muses align you may be in sync with them but don’t count on it.

white rabbitI wonder whether the White Rabbit called the shots when he pulled Lewis Carroll or was it Alice? down the rabbit hole.

Let your fingers do the walking over your keyboard and see where it takes you. Sometimes, though, after the initial excitement at the idea of beginning your novel, you run cold.

What now? I had the nucleus of an idea; I had a character in mind and that’s all. Nothing seems to be germinating. What to do? This is where some guidance can help.

Novel Basics

Figure out what genre you want to write – is it fantasy, romance, mystery, thriller, young adult or middle grade? There are even more genres but those are probably the most well known.

  • If the last time you read a kid’s book was when you were a kid, chances are that’s not the genre you should dip your fingers into.
  • If you enjoy reading romances, you will probably understand the plots that are generally employed – girl meets boy, there’s a problem, there are more problems, lots of misunderstanding, lots of sex and finally all is well and the couple lives happily ever after.
  • If you dislike murders and feel squeamish about blood, chances are murder mysteries are not for you.

Parse one of your favorite novels and discover what makes it tick, then start coming up with a plot. Sometimes even trying to copy a classic will set you off down the right path. Within a chapter or two, you’ll begin to find your own voice, your characters will begin to talk to you and the rest will be a yarn worth publishing. And no, you will not be plagiarizing – you’ll be surprised how quickly the story turns into your own. Change the names of the characters, the setting and a new plot will evolve in your mind.

Let me know how you begin your novels.


2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript