Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Query Secrets: Knowing Your Characters at the End of Your Book

In fourth and fifth grade, when we want to add on to something someone else has already said, we begin with sentence starters like, “I’d like to piggyback off what so-and-so said,” or “I concur with so-and-so because…”  In the same spirit of properly acknowledging other people’s thoughts, today I would like to piggyback off what Descent Into Slushland shared recently about the importance of knowing your characters when writing your query.

Basically, he suggests that writing a good query hinges on knowing your characters instead of attempting to outline the plot.  He has some great points and examples, so instead of trying to recapture his ideas, I recommend clicking the link above and reading his post yourself. Interestingly, his points inspired me to make a list of the characteristics of my two main characters, Kristen and Jake.  We all think we know our characters, but sometimes we need check-ins to keep ourselves honest, or at least I do.

What I discovered was actually amazing.  I found a small hole in my book that I was able to fill with an additional short chapter, adding another 1,000 words to my word count in the process and helping to create a fuller understanding of my characters and their relationship with each other. Sure, I outlined my characters before I began my book, but they changed through my writing, creating slightly different people than the ones I started with.  Instead of tweaking those original descriptions, I just kept my evolving ideas of who they were in my head, which ended up leaving a gap between who I thought they were and who I wrote they were.

I can tell my query is going to be a lot stronger as a result of this reflection too, although I still refuse to give it my full energy until I finish my final read of my book, (here is my pitch as it stands now).  I guess what Descent into Slushland helped me realize is that written check-ins with your characters throughout your writing are important, not just in the beginning or middle.  Of all the advice I have read on query writing, this has been most useful for the way my own brain works. Thanks Descent!

I wanted to share how informal and quick these check-ins can be. Instead of agonizing over finding beautiful words or painting an entire picture, I just typed in a stream-of-consciousness, errors and all.  What I discovered was a small hole in my book and a good foundation on which to base my query.

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Big Girl Writing Advice Needed: The End, Again.

Sitting in the little cramped attic bedroom of our ocean house, watching out over the waves from a slanted window, I’ve finished my book, again.  When I say finished, I mean I have read it all the way through, adding to it here and there, helping it grow by another 8,000 words, better developing characters, trimming superfluous passages, you get the picture.  It now stands proudly at 67,350 words, hopefully enough to be a short novel, (although, with any luck, it might grow some more as I revisit my rewrites to make sure everything flows).

So, here is my big girl writing question– do I need to reread the entire thing again or just all the highlighted sections where I made changes or added words?

I know everyone has different writing styles, but it really helps to hear what others do as I work my way through the completion of my first book, (which is all still new territory for me).  I really want it to be the best work I’m capable of in this moment, but I also dread rereading the whole darn thing again for what would be the fourth time, imagining myself stuck in reshaping and reshaping for eternity.


Please and thanks.

No real time for mermaids, or my less-than-stellar drawings of them, until Expecting Happiness is finished.

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How did you pick your writing tagline?

I get that for some of you writers out there, your genre is pretty darn obvious.  You write romance, or scifi, or horror.  But what about the rest of us, just writing books about life?  What do we call it?

I’m not self-important enough to claim that I write literary fiction, maybe someday, but not there yet.  Neither is my work popular enough to call it popular fiction, (heck, I’m not even published, so much for popular).  And, I hate the term chick-lit, because really, why alienate half the planet with that label?

Labels, labels, labels.  I like what John Updike said, “The category of ‘literary fiction’ has sprung up recently to torment people like me who just set out to write books, and if anybody wanted to read them, terrific, the more the merrier. But now, no, I’m a genre writer of a sort. I write literary fiction, which is like spy fiction or chick lit.”
So, I guess that leaves me somewhere in the range of contemporary, modern, commercial, or mainstream fiction.  But, which one is it?  Aren’t they all the same thing?  Today I received advice from a young literary agent whose weekly blog posts I really enjoy.  She suggested I create a new tagline on this page, something that better describes my writing.  While I agree with her, I have trouble picking the right words.  Somehow calling myself a writer of contemporary fiction does not say very much. Writer of modern adventures, perhaps?  Even that may be promising a thriller instead of just a story about life.  If you write in the sphere of literary or contemporary fiction, how did you decide to label yourself?

Even Powell’s blue “literature” room is a catchall for the books that do not fall under the traditional genre umbrellas. But, how does calling something literature describe it?

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