How to Find A Story Hook with Tess Woods

Today I've called on author, Tess Woods who is celebrating the launch of her newest novel, Beautiful Messy Love today (CONGRATULATIONS, TESS!), to share some of her advice on how to find a compelling hook for your story. 

Over to you, Tess!

‘What’s the hook?’

These were the first words my publisher asked me when I pitched her my last story.

‘What do you mean? I just told you my idea and shared with you this BRILLIANT new story I have bubbling in my head. That’s the hook! The hook is the staggeringly amazing plot I came up with.’

That’s what I thought in my head. What I replied was, ‘The hook, yeah, the hook. Riiiiight…’ while buying myself some thinking time.

In my mind, I didn’t need a hook. I had come up with what I thought was a fantastic new storyline. Surely that alone was more than enough to convince my publisher to jump on it. Nope. Not the case.

She patiently waited to hear THE HOOK. Grrrr.

So what exactly is a hook?

A hook is what will capture the imagination of your readers, what will make them want to keep reading it until the end because they have to know what happens. And the hook is also what you use to sell your book. It’s the angle that will pique people’s interest in your story.

If you have trouble coming up with the hook for your story, ask yourself:

What’s the question that your story asks with the answer found in its final pages?

Both of my books have the hook questions as the taglines on the front covers. In Love at First Flight, the hook is, ‘What if you met the love of your life and he wasn’t your husband?’ and in Beautiful Messy Love the hook is, ‘What happens when love and loyalty collide?’

Can you see the difference between a hook and a paragraph long plot summary?

You don’t hook readers with a summary, you hook them with a concept, a burning question they must have answered or they’ll go completely mad.

You hook readers with one short line.

People will often read the entire back blurb of a book, but it’s that one well pitched line that hooks them. Usually the hook line is either the very first or very last line of a back cover blurb.

So how do you come up with a good hook for your story? Here are some of my brainstormed ideas:

1.     What is it about your story that makes it different to other stories in the same genre? ‘For example ‘It’s a Cinderella story but it’s dystopian and only the one who marries the prince gets to live.’ That’s your hook!

2.     If you had to sum up your story in one short sentence what would you say?

3.     What was it about your story that made you think, ‘OMG, yes! This is the story I have to write!’ That’s the same thing that will make readers think, ‘OMG, yes! This is the story I have to read!’

4.     Take inspiration from the hooks for your favourite books and movies. For example, ‘Teenagers from enemy families fall in love and would rather die than give up on their love.’ Or this, ‘If an innocent black man was accused of raping a white girl in the era of segregation in the US, could a white lawyer save him?’

Immediately you know what those stories are, right? And essentially those two lines are the reasons those tales have been so widely loved over time. So try and put your book in a concise sentence that would make it immediately recognisable to anyone who had read it.

If you’re pitching your story to an agent or publisher, start with the hook. Sure, tell them more about the story, but first hook them in with your one fabulous sentence or question so that they’re then prepared to sit through five minutes of you telling them why yours is the best story ever.

So what did I tell my publisher in the end was the hook of my latest book, Love and Other Battles? ‘A three generation love story where the link is war. And dope. War and dope.’

Are you hooked? She was!

Tess Woods is a physiotherapist who lives in Perth, Australia, with one husband, two children, one dog and one cat who rules over them all. Her debut novel, Love at First Flight, received acclaim from readers around the world and won Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Award. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and all kinds of grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea and tending to the veggie patch. She’s also moderately obsessed with the TV series Nashville and taking Buzzfeed quizzes. Tess loves connecting with her readers on Facebook and you can also contact her at www.tess@tesswoods.com.au

Advice to Writers with Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb

In the lead up to Pitch Wars 2017, I'm running a series of blog posts focusing on writing and publishing. First in the series is an interview with Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group (TMG). I asked Mark a handful of questions about his job and what makes a good query letter. Here's what he had to say:

Please tell us about Trident Media Group and how you began your career as a literary agent.

Unlike many people who choose book publishing as somewhat of an accidental profession, it was always expected of me that I would one day work at Trident Media Group, a family-owned and operated literary agency. I think it comes as a comfort to many of my clients that I’m not leaving the literary agency, nor book publishing anytime soon. Anyway, you could say I was sort of groomed for the position at a young age. That’s why I chose Emerson College in Boston, as they were one of the only schools at the time offering an undergraduate study in publishing. My company bio expresses my professional journey from my time at Emerson College, onward:


Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories. 

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What's your favourite part of the job?

The interesting thing is that there really is no average day in the life of a literary agent, or at least there shouldn’t be, for when a literary agent’s days begin to stagnate and look the same, then that person’s career is in trouble.

Every day that I walk into the office, I think of ways to try to reinvent myself in a way to make myself competitive, while improving the careers of the authors I work with in creative and innovative ways. Every day should not be about drudgery—life is an adventure.

Of course there are a few things typical to most every day in the life of a literary agent, such as reading query letters, meeting/calls/lunches/drinks with editors and publishers as well as clients, pitching manuscripts to publishers, meeting with film/TV companies to adapt books for the screen, attending conferences/workshops, looking for new talent, etc.

How would you describe your ideal client?

I’m finding that the importance of platform in an author’s career has also made its way into the world of fiction, to an extent. In looking for an ideal fiction client with a platform, I look for authors that have good writing credentials such as experience with writing workshops, conferences, or smaller publications in respected literary magazines.

Having awards, bestseller status, a strong online presence, or pre-publication blurbs in-hand for one’s manuscript is also very promising in the eyes of a literary agent.

Platform is even more important in considering nonfiction authors. It is not enough for an author of nonfiction to be a respected authority on their subject matter—it’s important to publishers to know that such authors have a big online presence or social media following.

That’s why selling celebrity fiction to publishers is almost a no-brainer. Publishers get this strange thought in their minds that if any given celebrity has 100,000 followers or more, if even just ten percent of those followers buy the book, then the publisher is already in good shape.

What advice can you give writers in relation to query letters?

My advice to authors along the querying process is to really nail the writing of that query letter. A query letter that reads well is usually a good indication to the literary agent that the manuscript will similarly read well, inclining the literary agent to request a manuscript. Often the query letter can go on to become the publisher’s jacket copy, were the publisher to acquire the manuscript via the literary agent.


A good query letter is: upfront in one-two sentences what the book is about in hook or elevator pitch fashion (should mention the title, lend a sense of genre, and contain one-three competitive/comparative titles that were bestsellers or award-winners, published within the last few years). If the author has pre-publication blurbs, those can appear before those first two sentences.


Next is a couple of body paragraphs detailing some of the plot details without too many spoilers and in that space the literary merits of the manuscript can be mentioned. The last paragraph is usually reserved for a short author bio, mentioning relevant writing experience/credentials, and a link to an author site or social media page(s) can be included there.
The Trident Media Group literary agency prefers to be queried by authors via our website at http://www.tridentmediagroup.com Our query letter instructions are there.

How would you define a strong query letter? 

There are many mistakes that I’ve seen in query letters, but I will name just a few that would absolutely deter me from requesting the manuscript from an author, since it's probably easier to try and avoid these mistakes in order to make for a strong query letter.


-Submitting queries for novellas, short story collections, poetry or textbooks will usually turn a literary agent off, as most literary agents do not represent such things. Publishers tend not to buy from literary agents in those areas in the first place.


-Word count is also very important. Traditional book length is 80-120K, and commercial fiction tends to be in the 80-90K-word range. Going outside of normal book-length will not produce good results for an author querying a literary agent for a shot at going into major trade publishing.


-Writing within struggling genres such as cozy mysteries, erotica, or urban fantasy is also another way to turn a literary agent off in the querying process. We tend to be weary of that at Trident Media Group.

What sort of considerations come into play when you're thinking about offering a client representation?

I call them “the three peas in a pod,” and often look at them in this order:


Persistence: Don’t be discouraged by rejection. This being a subjective business that is bound to happen many times over. It does not mean that you’re not good—it means you’re not quite good enough as of yet. Learn from constructive criticism and grow.


Patience: This being a “hurry-up-and-wait business,” since reading and editing can take time, it is important to be willing to wait patiently for editors/publishers to consider work once it is submitted by a literary agent. There have been instances, though, where I’ve sold a project in as little as four days. In other instances, it has taken months. It may seem like a nail-biting experience while rejections start to flow in along the submission process, but it is often worth the wait once an offer finally arrives.


Participation: An author has a central role in the book publishing process. Authors that merely want to write their manuscripts, then check out, rarely experience successful publications. Asking one’s publisher or literary agent how they can help leading up to publication and in the months thereafter, is a great starting point. Being curious about a publisher’s marketing/publicity plans and commenting on them is also of key importance.

How important is an online presence for fiction authors these days? 

Online presence is most important to nonfiction as it integral to platform, which is essential for selling nonfiction. 

Is there anything in particular you're currently looking for? What does an ideal project look like to you?

I am very open to most any kind of genre, excluding poetry, short stories and textbooks. There are also struggling genres that I am generally not open to such as horror, erotica, cozy mysteries, and paranormal romance. My current list is generally comprised of science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, thriller, literary fiction, women’s fiction, young adult, middle grade, picture book, graphic novel, creative nonfiction, humor, celebrity memoir and pop culture. In addition to more commercial books, I would like to see some more serious fiction on my list and perhaps some more literary fiction.

About the Agency:

Trident Media Group (TMG) is a prominent literary agency located in New York City that originally formed in 2000. TMG represents over 1,000 bestselling and emerging authors in a range of genres of fiction and nonfiction, many of whom have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers Lists and have won major awards and prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the P.E.N. Faulkner Award, the P.E.N. Hemingway Award, The Booker Prize, and the L.A. Times Book Award, among others. TMG is one of the world’s leading, largest and most diversified literary agencies.
 
For more than ten consecutive years, TMG continues to rank number one for sales according to publishersmarketplace.com in North America. TMG is the only U.S. literary agency to consistently be in the top ten in both UK fiction and UK non-fiction and has ranked as highly as number one in UK fiction deals.

How to tackle a rewrite (without wanting to burn your book)

Here's my third instalment in my series for Pitch Wars. I've asked writer Jodi Gibson to share some tips on how to handle the sometimes daunting revision process. Jodi is working on her first novel and has almost completed the revision process of her book (yay!), so this is all fresh in her mind. Over to you, Jodi!

Redrafting, rewriting, revising, editing; whatever you call it, it’s tough. There’s no easy way to sit down and work though a draft.

At first you will procrastinate - don’t worry; it’s completely normal. When you’re done procrastinating, take a deep breath and prepare yourself – it’s going to be a long ride.

You will be overcome with myriad emotions. Periods where you think your manuscript is the worst thing ever written. Where you will question your successful completion of elementary grade English. And times where you would rather have your fingernails pulled out one by one rather than look at your words again.

But…

There will also be times when you will surprise yourself. When you think that your manuscript was sprinkled with magical fairy dust as there is no way you wrote that beautiful scene/dialogue/description. Those moments are the best. Savour them.

With all that in mind, here are six tips to help you through the editing/revision process.

1.    Put it away.

Don’t tackle a revision, read through or edit of your manuscript until you have let it rest. Put it aside for at least a month and focus on something completely different. This is the only way to make sure you have fresh eyes when you come back to reading it.

2.    The read through.

Read it through from start to finish without marking up. The idea of this is to see how the manuscript flows as a story. You will pick up on pacing issues, saggy middles, and things that just don’t flow smoothly in the narrative. Hold back from making any sort of detailed notes, just yet. Take light notes along the way if you must, but your focus should be on viewing the manuscript as a reader at this stage.

3.    The structural edit.
Now the hard work begins. The structural edit is where you will work on your plot, story arc, character journey, and conflict. Questions to ask yourself at this stage (in no particular order) are:

-       Is the pacing working?

-       Does the conflict ramp up progressively through each chapter?

-       Are the goals of my main characters clear and obvious and does the narrative reflect this?

-       Am I only including scenes/chapters that move the story forward?

-       Am I punishing my characters?

-       Does my main character change/grow by the end of the story?

-       Did I begin the story in the right spot? (deep in action)

-       Is the climax the most dramatic scene of the story?

-       Is point of view clean and consistent?

-       Is there too much/not enough backstory?

-       Is my opening scene attention grabbing to make the reader want to read on?

There are so many more questions, and you will find answering the ones above, will lead you to even more. But that’s good – the more questions, the stronger your story will become.

Don’t be afraid to cut whole scenes, chapters, and even characters. Yes, it may feel like tearing your own heart out, but it’s the only way to get to the crux of the story and allow you to rebuild (aka rewrite).

4.    Repeat

Repeat step 3 as many times as possible. I know. Sorry.

5.    Add colour and layers.

Now that the structure of your story is solid, it’s time to work on fleshing out scenes and characters. This is the fun part! Here you get to really focus on showing and not telling. Go through and highlight every area of your story that could be shown rather than told, and work on adding sensory detail – touch, sight, taste, sounds, smell. Develop your characters and work on their dialogue and voice, their quirks (that make them unique), and make sure their actions reflect their personality. Once you layer your scenes and characters you bring your story to life in such a magical way. It’s not easy, but it’s fun!

6.    The copy edit and proofread.
Check your spelling, your sentence structure, and your grammar. Is your novel formatted how your intended publisher/agents like to read them? Check their preferences.

There’s no right or wrong way to edit or revise your manuscript. What’s important to remember is that your story improves with every draft. Every rewrite and revision makes for a stronger, more believable story and gives you the best possible chance at attracting an agent, publisher, and ultimately, a reader’s attention.

It’s tough and it will bring you to tears, but I promise it’s worth it.

For more writing tips from Jodi, visit her website.

Jodi Gibson writes contemporary women’s fiction and is currently working on her first novel. She also blogs about all things writing and books. In her spare time, you’ll find Jodi with her nose in a good book, baking in the kitchen or dreaming of her next travelling adventure. Jodi lives in country Victoria, Australia with her husband, daughters, dogs, cat, horse and chickens.

Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List!

Here's my Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List!

Hello! I'm so honoured to be a mentor (Adult) for Pitch Wars this year. 

Thinking about choosing me as your mentor? Here's what you should know!

I write women's fiction and the occasional freelance article too. My debut novel, THE FLORENTINE BRIDGE sold in a two-book deal to Harlequin MIRA Australia and was published in January 2017. You can read more about that here or find the book here. My second book will be released in early 2018.

Last year, I led my first week-long writing retreat in Tuscany, Italy, and I can't wait to support a new group of writers for Your Beautiful Writing Life retreat in Daylesford this October. I find so much joy in guiding, supporting and sharing my knowledge with other writers. If you're wanting more of an idea about the kind of mentor I'd be check out the About section on my retreat page.

I’m represented by Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.

Last year I hosted Your Creative Life, a podcast designed to inform and uplift writers. You can listen to the 60 episodes here.

Favourite books: Check out my Goodreads for an idea of the kind of books I like or have been reading. As far as contemporary novels go, I've more recently loved books like Before I Go by Colleen Oakley and The Choices We Make by Karma Brown. My faves include The Help, The Bronze Horseman, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Book Thief.

Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

What I'd love to see:

Women's Fiction

Contemporary: I'd love to see some upmarket/book club fiction or work that has a literary, yet commercial feel to it. I'd be stoked with anything in the vein of Taylor Jenkins-Reid, Karma Brown, Sally Hepworth, Jojo Moyes. I like a romantic storyline, so love stories are great, as are books with a lot of heart. 

Historical: As far as tastes go, I will read anything by Jennifer Robson, Sue Monk Kidd, Hazel Gaynor. Or for our Aussie writers, think Natasha Lester, Fiona McIntosh, or Kirsty Manning. Contemporary/historical dual timelines are great. I particularly enjoy stories set from the late 1800s onwards but earlier is also fine.

I love books that make me feel something emotionally. I like to be moved by my fiction, so if your book will make me reach for a box of tissues all the better, although I normally shy away from anything too dark. If your book has a strong sense of place and you can sweep me away, then you might win me over.

I'm not your girl for: crime, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romantic suspense.

Why should you choose me?

I work hard and I want to see you succeed.

When I commit to something, I'm in 100%, so I will have your back the whole way and beyond. I promise you, I won't give up, even if you reach a point where you feel like you want to.

I really want to work with someone who is willing to pull up their sleeves and give this their all. Someone who isn't afraid of rewrites, killing darlings, and being open to changes. I want to see my mentee succeed but more than that I want my mentee to come away from this contest knowing they've come out of it with a vastly stronger manuscript than they began with. I'll offer kind yet thorough critique of your work.

What to expect

Honesty balanced with support. Brainstorming. Regular communication (via email, or Skype if you need it!) As far as your manuscript development goes, I can offer detailed and big picture feedback where we'll look at plot/character/pacing/dialogue. I can make suggestions using track changes in Word. Of course you'll be free or take or leave any suggestions I make for you, but I'd really love to work with someone who is open to feedback and has a positive attitude.

If you have a manuscript that is in decent shape, and you think we could be a good fit, I'd love the chance to see it!

Good luck!

 

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How to Pack a Punch in Your First Five Pages with Natasha Lester

In my second post in the lead up to Pitch Wars 2017, I've called on the fabulous Natasha Lester to share some of her best advice on how to make your first five pages stand out. After all, the first pages of a book are so important. These pages not only introduce the main character/s and any conflict, but they also set the scene for what's ahead. The opening of your story needs to make readers feel compelled to keep turning pages. So, how are some of the ways writers can ensure they do this?

Here's what Natasha had to say:

I always say to people that the first five pages of a book are a bit like a sales document. That might sound unromantic, but most Australian publishers only ask for your first three chapters when you submit to them. On the basis of those three chapters, they’ll decide whether or not to ask for your entire manuscript. Which means your first three chapters need to leave them wanting more, and your first five pages are the keys to creating this sense of anticipation. So how do we do that?

Voice

Voice is what lures the reader so completely into a story that the page disappears. It makes the reader feel as if they are inhabiting the world of the story. So your voice needs to be strong, distinctive, alluring and fresh. The trouble is, voice is hard to force or to teach. Often, it’s either there or it’s not.

One thing that helps is to be aware of what voice is. If you don’t understand what voice is and how it works, then you might not recognise when your story is voiceless. Often, writing lots of short scenes first before plunging into a story is a good way to find its voice. Reading books that have distinctive voices helps too. Make sure the sound of your story - i.e. its compelling voice - is there right from the very first page.

Forward Moving Action

Sometimes, in our desire to make sure the reader understands everything about our characters, we overload the first chapter with backstory. Try to limit the amount of backstory in the first five pages - I would even go so far as to say try writing the first five pages without any backstory at all; see if that improves the pace.

Forward moving action is the exact opposite of backstory. It is action, for a start, rather than exposition. It moves the story onwards, setting up a trajectory that the reader wants to follow. That’s what your first five pages should be all about.

Character

Make sure you introduce the main character and at least one other important character - perhaps your antagonist, your love interest, or a significant family member or friend. The reader needs to not only understand who the important characters are, they also need to understand which are the important relationships to cheer for and which ones to fear.

Make sure that your main character is on the page, talking and doing, rather than thinking and contemplating. It’s best to avoid very passive activities like staring out windows or into mirrors or at photographs as this is cliched and often just a way to sneak in some backstory. It also doesn’t allow the character to develop as they aren’t active.

It’s not necessary to be overly descriptive about your character in the first five pages; if we hear them speak and see them act then we will draw our own conclusions about your character’s personality and temperament.

Get the Reader on Side

Perhaps the most important job of the first five pages is to begin the process of getting the reader on the side of the main character, to be sure that we are rooting for him or her to succeed. This will mean giving the reader a sense of some sort of latent need/want/desire/dissatisfaction in your character’s life. A void, if you like, that the reader would like to see filled. You don’t need to be overt about stating this void; a hint will suffice at this stage.

Things to Avoid

The main thing to avoid is a lack of focus. Too many characters, too many locations, head-hopping with your point of view, setting up too many questions - all of these will tend to confuse the reader, rather than engage them with your story.

It’s impossible to say just how many characters is the ideal number but really think about the purpose of those first five pages: to lure the reader in. Narrow your focus down to the characters and actions that will do just that, write it with a distinctive and captivating voice and your first five pages will be certain to sell your book.

For more writing tips from Natasha, visit www.natashalester.com.au

Natasha Lester’s fourth book, Her Mother’s Secret, was published by Hachette Australia in 2017. She is also the author of the bestselling historical novel, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, which was published in 2016.

Previously, she’s written literary fiction as well, including the award-winning What is Left Over After (2010) and If I Should Lose You (2012). The Age newspaper has described her as “a remarkable Australian talent.”

She has been the recipient of grants by the Australia Council, and a writing residency from Varuna, The Writers House. Her work has also appeared in The Review of Australian Fiction and Overland, and the anthologies Australian Love Stories, The Kid on the Karaoke Stage and Purple Prose. In her spare time, she loves to teach writing, she’s a sought after public speaker and she can be also often be found drinking tea, buying shoes, doing headstands at yoga, or playing dress-ups with her 3 children.

Writing a Book and Finding a Literary Agent

By now you've possibly read my exciting book news about my debut novel, which will be published by Harlequin Australia. If not, you can read about that here! I'm often I'm asked about my writing journey, and how I found an agent to represent me. After discussing the topic of finding a literary agent on the podcast this week with Kim, I thought I'd share a little more of my story here, along with some tips for any authors out there who might be thinking of navigating these waters. 

First, Write the Book and Polish It!

To secure agent representation, in most cases, a debut fiction author must have a completed manuscript. And it's not enough to have just a completed manuscript. Your manuscript should be as polished as it can be. You only get one chance with each agent or publisher so it's really important that you try to get your book in best possible shape before sending it out for consideration. 

Receiving Feedback

I wrote my manuscript over a period of six weeks, swapping a couple of chapters at a time with two critique partners. 

While some writers can't stand the thought of sharing work before their first draft is finished, I found that knowing I was on the right track with things really helped with my confidence. It was also great having more than one reader to provide feedback because they each had different strengths and were able to point our different areas in my manuscript that needed work. For example, one of my critique partners had an extremely good eye for detail, and questioned character motivations, whereas my other partner really helped me pack more emotional punch into the story. Either way, it's a good idea to seek feedback on your work from people you can trust.

Once I had some feedback to work with, I rolled up my sleeves and set about revising, which naturally, takes some time! Once that was done, I sent the book out to beta readers, who would read the manuscript in its entirety and provide me with feedback on the big picture.

When my beta readers came back to me with more positive comments than suggestions for strengthening the manuscript, I decided to take the leap and send a query letter out to agents.

Getting Ready to Query

Querying can be a harrowing process. It's a time where you've worked so hard on your manuscript and are likely still very attached to it. Naturally, you wish the very best for it. It's also the point where you lose control over what happens next because nothing you can do can change the outcome of whether you'll receive a request and whether any such request will result in an offer of representation. 

To begin with, I researched potential agents, those that represented the kind of work I was writing, and those who represented authors I admired or liked books that I also enjoyed and added them to the list. As far as resources go, you could try these:

Australian Literary Agents' Association Member Listings

Query Tracker

Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents

^Remember that no ethical or legitimate agent will ask for payment in order to represent you. Be sure to research any agency/agent thoroughly.

Writing the Query Letter

There are several components a query letter needs to have. This letter is a professional, business letter of around 3-4 paragraphs, and is essentially a way for you to introduce your book to a potential agent. Firstly, it needs to have a clear hook outlining the conflict. Unlike a synopsis, it doesn't need to reveal the ending.

I spent a LOT of time writing and revising my query letter. It evolved over several iterations before I felt it was ready to send out. I highly recommend having someone read your query letter and provide you feedback on it. Ideally, have someone that has read your book and someone who hasn't, provide you with feedback.

The query letter is important not only because it helps your future agent assess whether they'd like to read more of your work, but your agent may use your query as the basis of their own pitch to editors. 

If you aren't feeling confident about writing your query, there are authors out there who offer query critiques such as Lauren Spieller and Nicole Tone, both of whom have worked as Literary Agent interns.

Sending Your Query Out

Once I sent my query out, I received a few requests for the partial and full manuscript. Most of these came in within a few days of sending my query but from what I've heard, response times to queries can vary widely so don't be disheartened if you don't receive a response straight away. Agents are very busy and very hardworking people, so sometimes it can take a while to hear back. Don't despair, just try to distract yourself from your inbox! I'll admit it, this is easier said than done! The major downside of querying international agents is the time difference and resisting the urge to check your emails in the middle of the night!

Don't be discouraged by any eventual passes you might receive. I know it's hard to receive a form rejection, but you might also find that some agents do take the time to give you some kind and helpful feedback plus an invitation to submit future work to them. Always hold on to the positive feedback, no matter how small! 

To cut a long story short, along the way, I received a request from the agent who ultimately offered me representation and went on to sell my book!

It didn't all happen at once though... 

Sometimes, things just literally fall into place.

At the time, for one reason or another things just didn't line up for us. Around six months later though, my agent had moved agencies and we were able to reconnect. By this time, I had agreed to be represented by a local agent, but due to some changes she was making in her business, we felt that I could best be supported by an agent who was going to be able to work with me over the long term. So we parted ways very amicably, (and still remain friends), and with her blessing, I signed with my current agent. At the time of reconnecting, it turned out she hadn't forgotten my story and had still been thinking of my manuscript. I loved that she completely understood my story and could see in it, the things I was yet to see. What a total blessing to find someone who'd connected with it in this special way! Anyway after re-reading it, she offered to represent me, proving you never know what's around the corner for you on the deliciously wild journey that being a writer takes you on. 

Sometimes, it feels like the Universe has things worked out before we do. Sometimes, we end up exactly where we are meant to be. 

Pop the champagne! I have BOOK NEWS!

I've been bursting at the seams to let you all in on some news I've been waiting to be finalised!

I've just signed a two-book publishing contract with Harlequin Australia! 
 
My debut novel THE FLORENTINE BRIDGE, will be published under Harlequin's MIRA imprint in both print and eBook formats! I've been pinching myself every morning since I found out about the news. It really is a dream come true. 

When I took the initial steps to write the first draft of this book, I didn't really know what I was going to write. Looking back, I think I was waiting for inspiration to fall from a cloud! THE FLORENTINE BRIDGE is the first adult manuscript I wrote and I had no idea where it would take me. Some things have a way of falling into place though, and this book led me down the path of signing with a wonderfully supportive agent and ultimately achieving a childhood dream after receiving multiple offers to publish it.

I enjoyed every minute of writing this book, and had one of those magical experiences most writers wish for where the words and story seem to unfold effortlessly. Admittedly, while the first draft took me six weeks to write, revision took a little while longer!

The team at Harlequin have shown a lot of enthusiasm for my book and I'm really excited to be working with them. Writers dream of people connecting deeply with their work and when we're lucky enough to find those people it really is a wonderful feeling! 

So, while I wait for my editorial notes to come in, I'm currently working on the first draft of what will be my second book. It's not pouring out of me like the first did, but I'm absolutely enjoying the process and the research involved! More to come on that down the track, but like the first, it'll be a book club read that tugs on the heart strings.

While I've been blogging and podcasting and writing about writing for some time now, I've kept fairly quiet about my fiction writing and my journey towards publication. This is mainly because said journey is usually one filled with lots of behind-the-scenes hard work, and a considerable amount of waiting for "things to happen" mixed with moments of cautious optimism followed by excitement and elation.

Many of you who are reading this have watched me take the leap from corporate career to launching a digital parenting magazine, to stepping away from that to pursue my writing more seriously. So thank you to each and every one of you that's taken an interest in my work and words and journey. I really appreciate you all for supporting and encouraging me!

Over the coming months I'll be sharing some of the steps and milestones that have led me to this point. I'll do a bit of a rewind all the way back to what inspired me to write this novel, how I went about the revision process, how I fit the writing in, and how I ended up finding my agent. I'll also share the first thing I did after accepting my publishing offer. Interestingly enough, it didn't involve champagne!

I'd love for you to join in some of the online celebrations! 

Come drop past Facebook to say hello if we aren't connected there already. You can also find me on Twitter and Kimberley and I will also be chatting about my journey to publication in upcoming podcast episodes. 

I'd love for you to join me for the ride as I work on all the steps involved in bringing this book to shelves! 

Until next time,
Vanessa xo