Guest Post: How I Increased Narrative Tension by Giving My Protagonists Psychologically Realistic Flaws

Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has had several of his short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology. Visit his website here to learn more about him and his upcoming book.

I’m not into the whole Chosen One thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to toss a hot take that all Chosen One narratives are bad. Like any trope they can be done well. But it has been done, and done, and done, and done some more. When I sat down to write The Sightless City (then “Untitled Lazarus Roache Project”), I wanted to tell a story about comparatively normal characters, not heroes chosen by gods or destiny. But normal does not mean boring. Too often books allow their protagonist to become dullest character. It’s a genuine challenge to make sure your point of view character is not just some window with legs, but a full and complex human being (or fantastical human being equivalent).

My strategy to make my POV interesting was to make each protagonist flawed in some significant way. They would be united in their opposition to Lazarus Roache, but I wanted each of their struggles to be individual and internal. They had been wronged, but they were not passive victims, they had active flaws that got them into their situations, and make it more difficult for them to escape.

To both explain what I mean, and to give a hint at how to write realistically flawed characters, let’s talk about the self-narratives. We each have a narrative about ourselves, explanations for what we have done, what we are doing, what we will do, and why. Often identities are a big part of this, labels either given to us or chosen by us (often a bit of both). These self-narratives give us a sense of who we are, and influence our future decisions, but they aren’t necessarily “true.” I’m not saying they’re always “false” either, obviously. It’s just that self-narrative are, like everything in society, constructions, ideas that are sometimes based on facts, sometimes on emotion, but often come from a blurry mix of reality, emotion, and expectation.

Marcel Talwar is a war hero. He fought to free Huile, giving up his leg and losing his friends in a fight for freedom. This is the identity he was given and one he embraces fully. But there is another narrative, another possible identity. Marcel Talwar is a war criminal. He caused thousands of brutal deaths. This alternative reading of his actions, as factual as his other identity, is abhorrent to Marcel. He does not actively consciously consider this possibility, and I don’t explicitly call him out on it in the book, but on some level he is aware of this darker narrative. This other interpretation does not make him question his war hero status, quite the opposite. He is so utterly convinced he is a war hero because the alternative possibility is so horrid. This leads to a massive emotional block preventing him questioning from his own decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. This is a significant character flaw. Marcel is a good person, in that he tries to be a good person and do good things, but he can be blind to reality when that reality threatens to unravel his self-narrative.

Sylvaine also has her own issues with self-narratives and identity. She is a Ferral, a beast-person, discriminated against her whole life. Ideally, she might find pride and security in her identity, and create a positive self-narrative, but she is unable to. Instead, she seeks to reject her Ferral-ness and prove, to the world and herself, that she is something more. This self-defense mechanism has found its focus in Ætheric Engineering. Ferrals are stereotypically considered primitive and simple. Engineering is the exact opposite of that, civilized and intelligent. She believes subconsciously that if she can just become an engineer, that will prove she is not just a mere bestial Ferral. She believes it will prove, to the world and herself, that she is deserving of respect and dignity. That’s not to say her interest in engineering is not genuine. She does actually love engineering, but her obsession is colored with a desperate self-loathing brought on by years of bullying and discrimination. Of course, this is what makes her inability to control æther so devastating, it’s not just the death of a dream, in an assault on the identity she is trying to claim, a cut into an old and deep wound. She keeps trying again and again to become an engineer, each failure just building more self-loathing, and as her desperation grows, as does her willingness to make questionable decisions if she thinks it might make her a real engineer.

Of course, its not just enough for these characters to have flaws, to have contradictions in their self-narratives, but these flaws need to manifest as actual conflicts in the plot. (I mean you could have a fully internal narrative, that might be interesting, but genre conventions for fantasy mean that at some point, something in the world has to change in meaningful and usually violent ways). So in comes Lazarus Roache, who, unlike the protagonists, is not trying in the least to be a good person. He is able to manipulate the protagonists not through simple threats or bribery, but by playing on their self-narratives, and their desperation to be the person they think they are.

So then the tension of the story becomes two-fold. 1) Will my protagonists defeat the villains. And 2) Will my protagonists be able to work through the inner contradictions own sense of self? But these two conflicts are interconnected, failing to stop the villains can push them deeper into holes of their own psyche, while these flaws can in turn prevent them from effectively fighting the villain. To resolve the external conflict, they have to overcome their internal ones, and those are often much more complex and difficult to face. And I think, also more interesting to read about.

Urban Fantasy vs. Magical Realism

Hello writers! How have you all been? It’s been a while, I know, but I have just been lost in a sea of work. Kindle Vella is launching next week, and I have been working on my fantastic Ivy Labyrinth project that I mentioned to you all a couple months ago. I did an entire post on tips for writing urban fantasy, and it seemed to be reasonably enjoyed by all of you. But as I was writing the first few episodes of my serial, I realized I wasn’t actually writing urban fantasy. It had similarities, but it did not quite fit based on what I had read about the genre. I went searching for answers, and I discovered a new genre for me: magical realism.

Today, I’m going to share with you a short comparison of these two genres so you don’t make the same mistakes I did when starting a new project.

Urban Fantasy

In urban fantasy, the setting is most commonly a urban city although I have seen a few instances where the setting is a major or even rural town. Whoever and whatever your fantasy creatures are, they should live in the city and interact with the population, but their true magical identities are unknown to mortals. They should integrate seamlessly into the universe and fly pretty much undetected. Until the main character discovers them, of course, and gets drawn into their world and their struggles. My favorite example of urban fantasy is the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Magical Realism

In magical realism, fantasy and reality operate side by side. Magical elements blend into the real world like they are one and the same. Through the main character’s eyes, magic is presented as fact, as something that always has been and always will be. Sometimes the author doesn’t even explain how the magic works! They operate through the eyes of the main character who sees magic as an everyday occurrence, encouraging the reader to accept it as such as well. From what I have read, magical realism often contains a social or political critique of society. In my opinion, this doesn’t have to be an overly obvious factor. For me personally, I’m still trying to figure out where or if that element fits into the piece I am working on.

So there you have it: my very quick breakdown of urban fantasy vs. magical realism. I hope this helps some of you when figuring out which subgenre your story fits into. Happy writing!

Preliminary Tips For Writing Urban Fantasy

Hello writers! I’m finally winding down my semester, which has been the most chaotic yet. I apologize profusely for not putting out as much content in the last six months. There has been a whirlwind of things happening. The most recent one is the subject of this post.

When Amazon announced their upcoming Kindle Vella platform, I was super excited. I am writing something entirely new for the platform. The piece is actually an idea that I worked on in middle school and am now revamping and upgrading to a young adult urban fantasy serial. Urban fantasy is a genre that I have always enjoyed reading, but I have never tried to write it before.

Then again, I had never tried writing epic fantasy before I wrote my first book.

So I have done some research into what it takes to write urban fantasy, and I want to share that advice with all of you.

Tip #1: Setting Matters.

On every site that I read through, writers pinned setting the most important aspect of urban fantasy stories. In fantasy, the setting always acts as another character in the story. It should be well thought out and well developed. I spent eight months working on the worldbuilding for Chasing Fae due to its complexity. Urban fantasies are set primarily in cities, though some take place in an outer suburb or something similar. These cities can exist in the modern world, but they could also be set in an alternate world or universe. Authors often draw from real-life urban environments to construct the most realistic setting. Some even play around with the era, taking a city from the past and bringing magic into it.

One of the most important elements of developing your settings is where the magic and urban world meet. Writing Tips Oasis conveys it best: “There are two different ways that you can portray the city: as it is, or as it would be because of the magic”. Magic can either be hidden in plain sight or portrayed out in the open. It has to be perfectly blended with the modern world. Technology like airplanes, the internet, and cell phones are often utilized by characters from the mortal and the magical world. At the same time, the magical institutions should have their own set of rules and technology that work together with or alongside the mortal one. I’m still learning about what that looks like!

Tip #2: Choose your lead protagonists wisely.

Whether or not you are choosing one protagonist or multiple protagonists, it’s important to find those characters that you can showcase “unique, but accessible” points of view. Whether they are mortal, vampire, or dragon shapeshifter, your characters need to feel believable to your reader. The magical aspect should not define your character. Instead, they should be given a full personality. They should have desires, strengths, weaknesses, and that one thing that keeps them going during the day.

I am planning on writing my Kindle Vella story from four perspectives. Serials specifically lend themselves well to multiple perspectives. One will be a mortal woman, one is a male dragon shapeshifter, one is a naiad with siren blood, and the last is an elemental fire mage. There are quite a few more magical races that I am including, but I don’t feel the need to have each of them have a main voice. Hopefully, I’ll be able to showcase many of them through secondary characters.

Tip #3: Pacing Is Important.

Though there is a variety of advice out there about what kinds of urban fantasy plots are the best, the pacing notes seem to all be the same. Readers of urban fantasy expect their stories to have a healthy dose of action. Of course, there need to be quieter moments to allow readers to breathe, but this genre tends to be fast-paced. Subplots are also important to help bring layers to the story. Romance is often a chosen subplot, but it’s important to make sure that you don’t let it take over the story. That may transfer your story into paranormal romance! Writers’ Digest adds that urban fantasy is sexy; a good sex scene or subtle eroticism teased throughout the book keeps the reader’s heart pounding.

I’m looking forward to tackling this story idea. Any one else who enjoys reading or writing urban fantasy? Any advice you want to share with the rest of us?

Happy writing!

An Interview With Roy Huff

Roy Huff

Roy Huff is a Hawaii-based best-selling author, peer-reviewed research scientist, and teacher. After overcoming significant childhood adversity, he moved to the islands and hasn’t looked back. He’s since earned five degrees, trained on geostationary satellites for NASA’s GOES-R Proving Ground, and written numerous bestsellers. He stumbled into writing, but what he didn’t stumble into is his love for all things science fiction and fantasy. Later, he contributed a series of fiction and non-fiction books as well as widely shared posts on how to design life on your terms. Despite early challenges, he embraces optimism, science, and creativity. He makes Hawaii his home, where he creates new worlds with the stroke of a pen and hopes you’ll come along for the amazing ride. I recently had the opportunity to do an interview with him, and I am so excited to share his answers with you.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Writing wasn’t something I grew up wanting to do. It happened by accident when I was
working on my fourth and fifth degree. I had to write a creative paper for an English
class, and one of the students who read the paper said she wanted to read a whole
book on Everville. That became my first book and series.

What does your fantasy writing process look like? What do you find the most effective? What do you find the most difficult? 

I used to marathon write. Now I write in smaller doses but more frequently. Typically, I
write in the morning after my daily journaling. I write in quiet, without distractions while
drinking coffee. I also tend to write new content in the morning and edit in the afternoon.

What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

It’s never good enough, so you have to be willing to have the courage to publish. You
must be committed to improving, and it helps to get comfortable with rejection and
negative reviews and feedback.

What is your best worldbuilding tip?

Include all the senses. Read what others have written, and practice your craft.

How many books have you written?

I’ve published four fiction and one nonfiction. That number will be up to five fiction on
July 2 nd , and six fiction likely in August. I also have a first draft of the final book in the
Everville series. At the moment of this interview, I’ve published five books in total and
written seven. I’m currently working on my eighth book.

Can you tell us about your latest project? What inspired you to write it?

I’m currently expected to publish a time travel book, Seven Rules of Time Travel, in mid to late July. Additionally, I just put out the books 1-4 box set of Everville. The Everville series
started from that single creative writing paper. But the time travel book has a lot to do
with my love for both science fiction and fantasy.

I grew up in very challenging circumstances. Both my father and grandfather died young
under tragic circumstances. I struggled under abuse and poverty for much of my
childhood. Fantasy and books were an escape. Thinking about escaping into other
worlds or being able to have knowledge of the future and do things over again was a
way to cope with ongoing trauma.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a question I cannot answer. It’s like asking what’s my favorite food or place to
visit. There are so many, and singling out one would not do the others justice. I’m big on
J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George Orwell, and others.

How do you market your books? How much interaction do you have with your
readers?

I engage fans on Twitter @realroyhuff and Facebook. I also have a mailing list, where I
email fans periodically about projects and interesting facts and interests in my life at
https://www.royhuff.net I also do periodic promotions, like the massive June 18 th Free
Kindle promo of Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone and the 99 cents Kindle Countdown
Deal for Everville books 1-4 boxed set. I will be taking top spots on Amazon, so be there
or be square.

What words of wisdom do you have for young people who want to start writing
their first book? 

Show up, publish, iterate. Read what others have done. Find a mentor if possible.
Develop constructive habits and a routine. Reflect on your routine. Find ways to focus
and strive to improve that focus. If you get stuck, write anything, but keep writing. Don’t
let others tell you whether you should write to market or write what you want. You can
do both. Do what you want to do. Even if you don’t’ believe in yourself, have the
courage to show up and write anyway. Everyone starts somewhere. Some people may
believe it talent, but talent is just skill. And skill can be developed with deliberate
practice, reflection, and mentorship.

Check out Roy Huff’s books, and follow him on social media!

Social Media

Instagram & Twitter @realroyhuff 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/realroyhuff

Website: https://www.royhuff.net/salvationship

Promotions This Week!

Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone: Free (June 18-June 22)

Everville Boxed Set Books 1-4: 99 cents (US & UK, June 18-24)

Buy links

Everville: The Fall of BrackenboneAmazon

Everville Books 1-4 Boxed Set

Introduction to Book Bloggers

Hello! I am sorry about the delay in the posting for this week. All of the work that I am doing for the book has been taking up all of my time, so every time I sit down to do a post, there are like fifty other things to finish. I love doing the work, but I am very tired at the end of every day.

So one of the important things I have learned through researching marketing techniques for Chasing Fae is the necessity of reviewers. Personally, I don’t usually read reviews before I choose to buy a book, but I know many people do. Several of my friends skim the first few reviews to see if a book will be any good. Reviews help sell books. They help gain credibility for an author, and they help find you new readers. Today, I’m going to share my best advice for reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers.

First, A Short List of Book Bloggers and Reviewers for Young Adults

Teen Influencers Book Blog Directory

The Book Blogger List

The Indie Book Reviewers List

Young Adult Bloggers, Sites, and More – The YA Bookshelf

30 Teen Book Bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and BookTubers You Should Be Following

Get To Know Your Chosen Reviewer And Their Platform

The key to securing the most opportunities to book bloggers and reviewers is to be organized. Take a look at the resources that I have posted above, and make yourself a list of reviewers that you might be interested in reaching out to. Please make sure to double check that they have had a few posts in the last couple months or so. Then explore the blogs that you have chosen. Explore the selection of their reviews. Get familiar with their work.

Make sure to specifically take note of their review policy. Here, you will find how to contact the person, what genres they are looking for at the time, and most importantly, what formats they want. This can change regularly. You also want to know what information to include in your email or contact form such as the title, publisher, and a brief summary. Here is a great article that is super helpful in learning how to format your emails to reviewers. Don’t forget to include a personal note of why you want this particular reviewer; connect it back to the person or the site.

Take Time To Plan These Things Out

I spent days putting together a good list of bloggers. I have spent days drafting and sending out messages so far, and I have a long way to go before I finish reaching out to everyone. You don’t want to give yourself just one day to get all of this done. It is a process and one that you’ll be spending time on while you revise, market, write, and market some more. Find some times every day to chip away at that long to-do list, and you will see it go down.

Follow Up

I like to keep a table of emails sent and responses received. It is way too easy to get busy with other pieces of the writing and publishing process and forget that you had outstanding requests to bloggers and reviewers. When I receive an email back from someone, I go back and add it onto my to-do list for the day: “Reply to Person X”. I mark it on my table, and then I remember to reply every time. If you don’t hear a response from someone that you’re expecting a response from or don’t hear in the time frame a reviewer has listed on their review policy, feel free to send a second email. Keep it short and polite with all of the impertinent information. And I can’t say it enough, keep track! Check your email regularly and keep updating your list or table (or both).

Happy writing, everybody!

The Importance of Balance

It is absolutely crazy to be going through revisions again!

The entire process has been a whirlwind so far, even though I’m only five chapters in to my revisions as of the time of writing this post. Every time I work through a chapter on my own, it comes back with lots of wonderful comments and markings from my editor, Kristy. She asks lots of questions that makes me think about which sections to elongate and which to elaborate on. Every chapter has new notes to work through, and I’m actually really excited that some are starting to make me sit down and take the time to puzzle them out. Revising takes time. A lot of time. Mixing schoolwork and revising and promoting the presale campaign can be challenging at times, but I really couldn’t be more thrilled doing it.

The most interesting thing about the revisions so far has been the discovery that I held myself back! As a first time author, I was determined to not make any of the pitfalls in my drafts. I wanted to keep my backstories concise and not excessive and make sure I wasn’t describing every new character’s appearance in too much detail. I wanted to make the setting immersive, but not so descriptive that the book feels like more description than plot.

But suddenly, both my editors told me that I could be adding more! I could be doing more! All of that information that I had held back in my notes and kept from my draft can start to be integrated into the book!

Do you have any idea how exciting that is?!

So, as I am learning all of these exciting things myself, let me give you a few tips about what areas are okay to elaborate on, as long as you keep a good balance.

Area One: Character Descriptions

When I was working on Chasing Fae, I was very concerned about mentioning my characters’ appearances. I knew that while it was important to ground your reader through physical description, it had to be done in such a way that it didn’t feel formulaic. You know: hair, eye color, height, etc. all in a few sentences stashed near the introduction of the character. So I actually spread out my physical descriptions over a couple of chapters.

It turns out I did need to rework some of that, particularly for my main characters in order to give more of a physical sense much earlier. Also, it is actually really important to ground your small secondary and tertiary characters with some sort of visual element so your readers can visualize. The more I see the note, the more I begin to recognize the importance of it.

Area Two: Setting

Each moment in space and time can be talked about, even if it is only a couple of sentences. Every time there is a distinct transition in location, I find myself seeing more notes about taking a breath and letting my readers know where we are and what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I find that I need to work on expanding my writing on the different senses. I am good at talking about what my characters are seeing and what they are feeling in particular, like a light breeze or the sun bearing down on them. But I could use some work on what my characters are hearing and smelling. It doesn’t need to be in every description of a setting, but I think it does add another layer to the reader’s sense of place in your book.

Area Three: Pacing and Layering

One of the most significant compliments that I received on my manuscript from my Acquisitions editor was that my level of tension throughout the book was spot on. However, I am starting to realize that just because your tension is right doesn’t mean there isn’t more to work on in terms of pacing. My editor has pointed out to me several times over the first few chapters that there are moments where I can slow it down a little bit. I can add a few more paragraphs to clarify setting or character backstory and motivation or just take a moment to let everybody take a breath. My book is on the low end of the young adult fantasy genre’s typical word count (80k), so I have a decent amount of room to work with. The story has space for more layers, and I am finding new ways to add fresh life to Chasing Fae.

I hope that this inspires you to loosen yourself up a little bit with your descriptions in your writing. There is space! And if there isn’t, trust me, someone will tell you. Happy writing, everyone!

What To Consider When Starting A Sequel

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe during this chaotic time in the world. My family and I have been practicing social distancing for the last week now, and we have been doing the best we can to fill up the time. I have been working on lots of outreach this week for my preorders as well as starting the sequel to Chasing Fae, tentatively titled Chasing War. I have also been spending lots of time with my sister playing board games and working on some creative projects together. Online classes start on Monday, and it’s definitely going to be… interesting. I hope everything turns out alright.

Today, I want to talk a little bit of my experience in starting this sequel and some tips on how to start your second book as a continuation of the story in your first. I think it’s an interesting topic that I haven’t touched on yet in terms of working with a fantasy series.

Starting Chasing War

I have tried to start this sequel three times since I finished Chasing Fae. Which is pretty amusing to me because based on the outline I’ve created, this book of the trilogy is probably going to be my favorite to write. The first time was during NaNoWriMo where I got extremely ill and ended up having to cancel my attempt while I recovered. The second time, I ended up having intense midterm exams and papers that all coincided with each other. Finally, I’m having an opportunity to write during this period of isolation at home. But even now, I’m having a little trouble.

I think the simple explanation is that somehow I’ve forgotten what it’s like to write the first draft. Which brings me to my first major tip of writing your first sequel:

Don’t Forget That The First Draft Will Not Look Like Your FINISHED First Book.

The first draft is inherently flawed. And that’s okay! That’s more than okay! The first draft is about having something solid to build off of and modify and evolve into something incredible. Try to remember that your first book takes months and months and maybe even years to complete. The first draft will not represent the extent of what you can produce. Remember that. I’m trying to!

Your sequel should have its own arc.

While your sequel does build off the previous book, each book needs to have its own unique arc that gets wrapped up by the end of the story. Remember, your reader wants to see something new out of your characters and out of your universe. Your main character needs to take another transformative journey and evolve as a person. You will see the world in your novel change, sometimes in subtle ways and other times in dramatic times like the outbreak of war or a widespread disaster. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

Bring New Characters To The Table

Time to create new voices! One of the best parts about writing a sequel, in my opinion, is to add new characters to the mix. There is always a new character or group of characters that comes in and shakes things up. Personally, I have a whole host of new voices that are going to change everything for Grace, and they are going to cause a LOT of trouble. Trust me.

Don’t be afraid to start something new. Happy writing, everybody!

Oh! And if you haven’t checked out my preorder campaign for my debut novel, Chasing Fae, please click here to learn more!

Writing Endings

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to writing about fantasy writing! One of the most important elements of a novel that you have to nail is your ending. Your beginning pulls readers in, and your plot and your characters keep the reader engaged for the subsequent book. But your ending has got to bring everything home. A bad ending on a great book will leave a sour taste in the reader’s mouth. Trust me, I’ve been there. Even if you love the book, there’s something about a poor ending that can erase part of that happiness.

So, the ending is pretty important. Today, I want to talk about what it means to finish a book well and a few tips that I’ve picked up while writing Chasing Fae.

Finish Your Plot.

This seems like it should be obvious, but it warrants saying anyway for several reasons. Your ending has to wrap up the main storyline. You have to finish the main plot arc of the book regardless of whether you are continuing on the storyline in a sequel. A definitive end must be visible for your reader, or you may leave them wanting. You should also consider your subplots. If it’s a standalone story, everything must end. If you plan on having a sequel or several sequels, then in my personal opinion, subplots should come to a natural stopping place. It doesn’t have to be a positive place; for example, you can end a relationship in a tumultuous position. But I think that it’s important for readers to feel like there’s a clear pause.

Make sure your ending makes sense.

Your ending should feel natural. It’s perfectly acceptable to wrap up the main plot and then have a scene or two afterwards that allows the characters to simmer down to normalcy or the new normal after the climax. Let’s see the aftermath of the character’s decisions over the course of the book. What has to change in order for the world around them to stabilize? Does the world stabilize, or is this the beginning of a new conflict? If your main character’s world calms down, write about how they feel now that the adventure is over. Who is in their life now to stay? Who has disappeared? If your ending is going to lead into a new conflict in a subsequent book, your readers want to see the inklings of that rising. Offer some hints into what is to come, even super vague ones. One of my favorite books of all time, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, has an amazing ending that was a little strange and intriguing reading it the first time. And then when you read the second book, about midway through, I suddenly went “OH! EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW! THIS IS AMAZING!” *subsequent reader screaming*. Experiment with your ending. Write it a few different ways and see what you like best. Get other writers’ or readers’ opinions.

Show Your Protagonist In All Their Glory.

Your ending does not have to showcase a triumphant moment. Your protagonist could be suffering after a horrible loss. The most important role of your ending is to show how your main character has grown internally over the course of the novel. Whether you are depicting victory and resolution or defeat and the construction of a new plan, your character’s emotions will show up on the page. In a victory situation, you will see happiness or you may see them step into a new role in their lives. There may be an aura of calm about them that is totally different from what the reader has seen over the course of the novel. In a defeat situation, there’s a lot of anger and sadness and fear, and you have a real opportunity to lay out your character’s innermost thoughts. You can attest to their stubbornness and their determination and as a writer, strongly convey that pivotal decision to get up and try again in the next book. I personally love both kinds of endings, but especially the latter. You want to know if the protagonist will get what they deserve out of life. As a reader, I crave it; I absolutely have to know. And that’s what keeps me reading and keeps me buying the next book in a series.

Happy writing, everyone.

How To Create A Good Pitch

Hey everybody! I hope everyone’s been having a wonderful week of writing. I’ve been working on my history book nonstop for the last week, and I’m making some great progress. I’m seeing chapters start to take form, and I’m liking how it sounds so far. Writing nonfiction is such a different process than writing fiction; there is SO much research that is involved. It’s a more focused style of writing. I want to make sure the text is informative and engaging at the same time. Progress is being made!

Today, I want to talk about how to create a good pitch that will get agents to listen to you. Query letters won’t always be your sole means of communication to literary agents. At some point in your writing career, you may have the opportunity to speak to a literary agent face to face and make your case about your book verbally. Now if you’re an introvert like me, that might make you panic. But don’t worry, this article’s going to give you some pointers about how to write a good pitch and execute it well.

Writing A Good Pitch

Luckily, the first step creating a good pitch involves writing! We’re writers! That’s what we’re supposed to be good at, right? Let’s use that to get us started on the right foot.

Your pitch has got to be concise, but informative. When you’ve got the attention of an agent for such a short period of time such as during a writing conference or in an elevator. Hence the name ‘elevator pitches’. As an author, you have to be able to sell your book in the first sentence. What is the heart of your story? Find the most compelling piece that makes your book unique and sum it up in about twenty words or less. For me, it’s a young mortal woman taking on the Fae world and its dangers to find answers about her brother’s death. 19 words, and I’ve shared my main character, her motivations, and the reason that readers should keep turning the page. Agents are in the business of selling books. Convince them you can motivate readers.

Once you’ve hooked them, then you can get into some of the details. Give a few sentences about your book. Elaborate on the motivations, the events, the intrigue. Don’t forget to mention the world a little bit. But keep it snappy. Let the agent decide if they want to hear more from you. Don’t forget to mention your target audience.

I would suggest writing your pitch down so that you can refer back to it whenever you need to.

Practicing Your Pitch

Pitching to agents requires a certain amount of preparedness. I’m not the most confident person in the world, but with enough practice, I was able to pitch to a literary agent and wow her enough for her to request a submission from me. Here are my best tips to prepare:

Practice, practice, practice: If you do not know this pitch backwards and forwards before you step into that room, you are not going to get anywhere no matter how well you think you know your story. Agents can tell when you’re putting something together on the fly. That’s not to say that you have to be a rigid script reader. Instead, you want to know your pitch well enough to start with it and then add a little more finesse as the meeting goes on. You’ll know if you get nervous, you can always revert back to the structure you already have in place. Remember, keep it concise.

Act the part: If you’re having face to face time with an agent, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be a pre-planned affair. So act like it. Business casual will show that you are serious about what you are putting forward without coming across as too formal. Walk with confidence. Stand tall, but don’t let it feel forced. Speak with authority, but not with forcefulness. Make sure your volume is at the right level. One of the things I learned in high school as an actress is that if you act confident, you will feel confident. Again, this will all come with practice. Watch yourself practice your pitch in a mirror. Take note of how you look and sound. It might feel silly at first, but trust me, it helps.

Be prepared to answer questions… and be prepared to ask them: Knowing your own book well enough to answer questions an agent throws your way should be expected. But something that I did not expect during my first conference was the agent to ask me if I had any questions. I had only one question in mind prepared, and we still had nearly five minutes to go in our session after that. Now, I think my age may have garnered me some sympathy in that department, but young people, don’t make the same mistake that I did. Have several questions prepared, more than you think you will need. Better to have more than you have time for than to sit in awkward silence.

Now I know this is a lot of information to take in, and it can feel a little daunting. Especially if you’re an introverted writer. But I promise you, you have the ability to make it happen. I believe in you!

I’d love to hear your pitches! Comment your pitches below, and I would love to help you out and maybe even offer some pointers. Happy writing, everybody!

How To Write A Novel Synopsis

Today, we are going to tackle what I would argue is the most difficult part of your entire submission package: the synopsis.

When I realized I was going to need to write a synopsis for some of the literary agents I was going to submit to, I was absolutely terrified. Every single English teacher I have ever had has commented on my inability to stay within page/word limits. It’s just impossible! If my point needs four pages instead of three to be argued beautifully, how can they expect me to cut myself off? But of course, when you’re submitting your manuscript, you want to nail the guidelines. You don’t want your submission to be thrown out without a chance just because you couldn’t follow an agent’s directions.

The consensus among the writers I’ve spoken to is that the synopsis takes the most time to create and is the most complicated to figure out. So when I was approaching the synopsis for the first time, I took to Google to do some research. I read lots of articles about the subject, and to be honest with you, most of them were no help whatsoever. There isn’t a good consensus about how to write a great synopsis except to just…. well… write one?

But I did find one article that took a different approach to writing a novel synopsis. Instead of trying to deal with a lot of moving parts at once and writing straight through from beginning to end, the author offered a suggestion to break down your book into parts. Analyzing what is important from different elements of your story makes it a lot easier to write your synopsis. I’m going to break down this technique for you right now, so get ready, get a pen, and take some notes.

Basics of A Synopsis

Most literary agents are looking for a one to two page synopsis in size 12 font and single spaced. Single spacing is a lifesaver, trust me; use it well. There’s a few points you’re going to want to make sure to cover: the narrative arc, your characters and their motivations and emotions, and the ending, to name a few. Do NOT forget to reveal your ending. In your synopsis, an agent is looking for the full main story and as many nuances as you can include within your word limit. You need to be concise, yet detailed at the same time.

Breaking It Down

Step One: Get a piece of paper or open up a document, whichever you prefer. And get ready to make multiple lists. We’re going to start with the plot basics. Use a number list or bullet points to detail the main plot events in order. Emphasis on MAIN. Do not worry about your subplots at this point; we are solely focusing on the clear steps that move your protagonist from inciting incident to the climax and resolution. Include the turning points that set your protagonist on a clear path for either success or failure.

Step Two: Now, we’re going to make a separate list for the main character’s character arc. Introduce your main character and list the points where we see the protagonist thrown into situations where they are forced to make decisions. List the events throughout the novel where the reader sees the character change and grow as well as places where the character maybe takes a step back and reverts back their old ways.

Step Three: Next, let’s bring the secondary characters into the mix. These characters influence the main character in various ways and push them towards or draw them away from their goal. Showcase the ones who play a major role in your novel, and track their progress. Do those characters stay fixed? Do they change as the protagonist changes?

Step Four: Following the introduction and journey of these secondary characters, pick out the major relationships in your novel. This can be a romantic relationship between main and secondary character, or it can be the hero/villain relationship. Or both, depending on the story! Track the main events of each relationship like a mini plot, from beginning through the climax to the end.

Step Five: Take a look at what you have so far. Can you identify any key themes that are addressed throughout your book? Are there any messages that you are trying to convey, blatant or subtle? If these are crucial to the book, write these down and find ways to weave this into your synopsis.

Step Six: Organize your numbers or bullet points into plot order. Now you have a list of everything you should include in your synopsis. Now it’s time to write! One other note, especially for fantasy: make sure you introduce the world that the story is operating in. Include a few important details about the world that are important to your story.

There you have it! By the end of this, you should have a synopsis in your hands! But don’t stop after a first draft. Make sure you edit, edit, edit this document. Have someone look it over, whether it’s another writing friend or a professional. Polish until you are happy with the state that it is in. Spend some time on this! A synopsis can be what gets you that manuscript request!