Friday, June 5, 2009

Helpful Websites When Querying an Agent

It's always important to research everything pertaining to your book's subject when writing. So why stop the research when searching for an agent? I've put a list together of great websites to help writers in their query/agent process. I use all websites I've listed each and every day on my road to finding an agent. If you know of any other sites to add, please post them in the comments for all to see!

Absolute Write- The Absolute Write forums are awesome and the Bewares and Background Check portion is unmatchable. Not only can you find out agents/agencies' backgrounds, but you can also puruse fellow writers' posts regarding how long the wait times on queries/partials and fulls were for them. It's a great place to hang out and hear about the road to agents/publication for your peers. Very supportive crowd.

Preditors & Editors- If you've ever sent queries out into the world or you are thinking of starting the process, you need to have this site bookmarked. You can find a list of agents/agencies/publishers with their contact information and if they are recommended. If you are weary of an agent/agency, look no further than Preditors & Editors.

PublishersMarketplace- This is an invaluable site, but to reap all benefits, it's a $20 per month fee (you can find all member benefits listed on the site). That's not saying it's not worth it! You can find the latest and greatest news, reviews and deals, along with very informative articles. Search for agents to find all information about their recent sales and clients. They also have a Publishers Lunch email service that is free. If you can't afford the $20 a month, make sure to sign up for the slimmer, free version.

Agent Query- This site is where I start off making my list of agents to query. You can search by genre or keywords to bring up a list of agents. It is the largest database on the web. How can you go wrong?

Query Tracker- Query Tracker is a lot like Agent Query, except to benefit completely, you have to sign up for their services (it's free!). You can tracker which agents you've sent your query to, their response, etc. While you're there, check out the great blog and forums associated with the site.

Miss Snark's First Victim- I've talked about this site before. It's awesome! Writers can submit their work for critiques and contests. A secret agent reads through the entries (the requested material changes each month), commenting on each one. Everyone is welcome to comment, as long as they play nice. At the end of the month, the secret agent is revealed and the top selections are chosen and awarded.

Query Shark- Run by super-agent Janet Reid, Query Shark is a great place to not only read other writers' queries (and what they did wrong), but also submit your own! Can't beat an agent breaking your query down and pointing out what works and what doesn't!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Character Cards

It’s interesting how characters develop from gnat-sized vague impressions to in-your-face personas that won’t let you sleep until you’ve got their story down on paper. They start off like:

Tall guy enters room. Looks angry.

And become something like:

Talon burst through the doorway, ready to knock a few skulls together.

Okay, maybe not a fantastic example - but still, you get the idea. Just who are these people? I mean, seriously…how do writers do what we do? Create worlds, lives, creatures? I, for one, am clueless. But I have a blast figuring out each newbie as they drive into the lot.

Sometimes they’ll arrive on the set fully formed, but often I’ll be a few chapters into a first draft before I can completely visualize them or understand their motives – and even then, plot twists might reveal a motive or talent I’d never suspected. Characters can be that way – closed mouthed until the weirdest moments. I’ve been totally blindsided … and I’m the one writing the damn book.

My new WIP, Witch’s Shadow is part of a series I’m writing with fellow YA paranormal fiction author, Kitty Keswick. We are individually writing books, but they take place in the same world, a pseudo-Salem town called, Origins. Our characters crossover – we have best friends, rivals, enemies and mythologies that mesh together from book to book.

OMG – the planning!

Not only do we have to have a handle on our character’s motives, appearance, goals, failings – we have to share that information with each other in a clear, precise way so that they remain consistent - no matter who created the character, or who is writing them into a scene.

To keep this large cast present in both our minds, we created character cards. These profiles have all the essential information a writer would need. We list: name, appearance, background, motives, goals, personality type, likes, dislike, fears, talents, friends, enemies, etc. We also search the net for images to depict, as closely as possible, how we envision our characters to look like and dress.
We do this with setting as well, naming buildings, creating a town map, sharing photos of interiors/exteriors.

Setting up a mutually shared world is a time consuming and strange process. We disagree, we compromise and we get frustrated, but we’d be so lost without it.

I’ve never had to work so hard at getting to know my characters, so quickly. To not be wishy-washy and constantly changing their traits – frankly, having them pegged down this well makes the writing go a lot smoother. Filling out our character cards was so fun, that we took it a step further and have started to create graphics containing key elements. Here’s mine for my main character, Bea Drake:

Want to really get into your character’s head? Then I suggest creating your own character cards and see what tidbits the process reveals.