From FanFiction to Original Fiction

Today, Wannabe Pride welcomes guest blogger, Breanna Lee Brown!

I’ve loved to read and write for as long as I can remember. My teachers and family have always told me that I had a talent for writing. But it wasn’t until early 2012 that I started working on my first novel.  Before that, I hadn’t given it serious consideration. What changed? Well, you can thank J. K. Rowling for that. Just for fun, I started writing a Harry Potter fanfiction. It became really addicting. I eventually wrote stories based in the Hunger Games and Divergent worlds as well.  I loved getting feedback. Most reviews were positive, people asking me to write more. It gave me the confidence boost I needed. If you really want to be an author, I think fanfiction’s the perfect place to start. You can put yourself in a familiar fictional world and play around with it anyway you want to. Thanks to the kindness of readers, I decided to begin brainstorming my own original world. Once the ideas flowed out, I couldn’t stop. I realized soon that I had the makings of a trilogy in my hands.

How did it happen, you might ask? I was once told that I should write the kind of book I want to read. The first thing I came up with was the concept. At the risk of having no copyright yet, I can’t disclose much, but I can say that it’s a mix of genres. It’s young adult, science fiction, and historical fiction all in one.

A crucial part of my writing process was influenced by the workshop classes I took in college.  I had to write a few short stories, and as a group, my classmates and professor would critique one another, gaining extremely helpful advice along the way. Not just about our own writing, but the writing world.  Above all, I make sure that I’m always reading. Always learning what kinds of things make a book great or bad. It also tells me the types of books that are bestsellers.

I’m still hard at work on my first book- the third draft, to be exact- and I haven’t begun searching for an agent. Why? I firmly believe that all good things take time. I can thank my workshop teachers for that tidbit. Any amount of work I put into it now will benefit me later. It can mean fewer rejections from agents, and, especially, publishers.

My writing career has only just begun, so bring on 2014!

–          Breanna Lee Brown

On Dealing With Critiques and Reviews – The Road to Self-Publishing

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.

49 Weeks Until Publication

It’s never easy dealing with critiques and reviews, but I’ve developed a system for both. And yes, there is a distinction between a critique and a review. A critique is when you actively seek out criticism, either via paid editors or unpaid volunteer beta readers. A critique is supposed to tell you what you need to fix before you publish or submit anywhere. A review is when readers provide a critique of what’s already completed and published.  Both critiques and reviews can be difficult to deal with and each require different coping mechanisms. At least for me they do.

When getting a critique, it’s important to remember that you are the only one who is going to see this review of your work. Unless you blog about it like I am wont to do from time to time…. With a critique, no matter how bad it is, there’s still time to fix what’s wrong with your work. That’s the whole point. Isn’t it better to be told that your slip is showing or you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe BEFORE you make your grand entrance to the party?

Anyway, critiques and reviews can suck. Sure, they can also be good, but do you really need my advice on how to deal with a good review? Didn’t think so.  Okay. I have a simple three-step  process for dealing with critiques. A critique is something that you actually asked for, so you’re at least somewhat prepared because you know its coming. The first step is to read the review as quickly as possible. The first time I read it is always the scariest. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. For me, it’s an awful moment when I see that the critique has popped up in my inbox. It’s that heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping moment of pure liquid fear. It’s the “Hi, this is your doctor calling and I have your test results back” moment. Even if it’s good news, it’s gonna take a while for that initial terror to dissipate. I skim the critique as fast as humanly possible. This is the “Okay, how bad is it?” read.

My initial response is usually defensiveness. No way! That’s not right! That’s not what I was saying! She doesn’t get me at all!

Guess what? If your editor or beta guru doesn’t get it, your readers probably won’t either. This is what you paid an editor and/or harassed your writer friend to do. You wanted them to tell the truth.

After my breathing calms down a bit, then I read the review again. This second step is known as the “Okay, what is this review really saying?” step. The critique is usually not as bad as I feared it would be. On the second read, I can start to get the gist of what the reviewer is really saying about what’s right and wrong with the work. What are the major flaws and how bad are they really?

The three read is actually kind of fun. By the third time, I’ve chilled out considerably. By that read, my mind is already spinning with ideas on how to fix what’s wrong with the manuscript. For me, writing is hard work but it’s also fun. Once I start putting a plan into action on how to incorporate these changes, I feel better. I’m back in my comfort zone. I’m a writer. I got this.

I usually do the three reads all at once. I mean, like immediately. BAM-BAM-BAM. It always reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Homer believes he’s dying and goes through the stages of coping in rapid succession, from anger to fear to bargaining to acceptance. He starts by yelling at the doctor and ends up reasoning that we all have to go sometimes. It takes about fifteen seconds.

This whole coping-with-critique deal probably takes about 10-15 minutes, but it’s an awfully stressful quarter of an hour. As I write this, I’m still waiting on the critique for my manuscript. It stresses me out just thinking about it, but I have to remind myself that, unlike a Few Good Men, I CAN handle the truth. I WANT the truth. I NEED the truth. This is not a game to me. I’m really going to publish this book and I need it to be the best it can possibly be. This is my favorite story that I’ve ever written. First as a screenplay and then as a novel that I tried to get traditionally published, the rejections for QUEEN HENRY always hurt more than for anything else I’ve ever written.  I waited a week to send QUEEN HENRY to the editors after my last edit because I knew I was way too close to the story to handle a critique right away. I had just read through the whole book making minor edits myself. I’m so close to these characters that I swear I feel like I’ve experienced everything they went through. Right after reading it, I am at my most vulnerable and least objective. I told myself not to listen to any of the usual songs I listen to while working on this novel while I waited for the critique. I needed to give myself some emotional space, some distance from it, before it gets torn apart by the critique.

But I didn’t follow my own advice and I’ve still been listening to my own personal QUEEN HENRY soundtrack as usual when I’m out for my daily walk. There’s really no protecting my heart when it comes to this story. My heart’s been broken by critiques of it before and I suppose it might be again.

But I know that it’s worth it. When you love something so much, it’s called passion. Great passion brings both incredible joy and intense sorrow. That whole better-than-not-having-loved-at-all kind of deal. I know the risks and I know they’re worth taking.

So that’s my philosophy on dealing with critiques.

Reviews can hurt just as much but the process for dealing with them is less complicated. Reviews come after the project is a done deal. The book is already published or the movie has already been released. It’s too late for changes and hindsight is always crystal clear. My plan for dealing with reviews after publication is as follows: for the good ones, I will print them out and save them in a binder. I’ll probably read them so often that I’ll be able to quote them verbatim. As for the bad ones, I’ll read them once for the “how bad is it?” read and then I’ll read it a second time to see what they’re really saying. I don’t want to totally ignore them altogether because there could be something I could learn for future use. For bad reviews, two times is enough. If it’s especially nasty, one time is enough. The truth is, some people are just jerks. It’s never worth dwelling on the negative, even if you can learn something. Learn, then move on as much as you can.

I guess passion in writing is kind of like passion in marriage. You really do have to take it for better or for worse.

It really is better than no passion at all.

Wish me luck. The critique is coming any day.

– Linda Fausnet

Why It’s Time To STOP Giving 5-Star Book Reviews

 

5-star

I’m at the point now where I see a writer touting his 5-star-reviewed novel and I just roll my eyes.

Five-star reviews mean nothing anymore.

Just about every self-published book out there has at least five to ten 5-star reviews. This is because every self-published author has at least five to ten family members and/or writer friends who are willing to give them a stellar review without any regard whatsoever to the actual quality of the writing.

Seriously, check out the reviews on Amazon on any self-published author. They ALL have MOSTLY 5-star reviews. If you click on “see all my reviews”, you can view the rest of the reviews written by each reviewer. It seems that EVERY book they have EVER read is 5 stars!!!

Take a look and you will find that these 5-star-reviewed books run the gamut from professionally edited, well-crafted stories to books with enough horrifically glaring grammatical and spelling errors to make Strunk & White arise from their graves and raise their fists to the sky, shrieking “Why God, why!!!”

As any of my family members and friends will tell you, I am prone to fits of righteous writerly rage when I see one of those books get 5 stars. A few tips if you’re going to write a romance novel:

* It’s physique not physic.

* Handsome has an “e” at the end.

* A question mark needs to be present if someone is asking a question. This is not optional.

* You need to place a period at the end of other sentences. You can’t just leave them blank.

* You’re not allowed to just randomly capitalize words in the middle of a sentence. There are rules for those sorts of things.

The above mistakes are all from the same novel and appear in the teaser excerpt on Amazon designed to get you to buy the novel. The book currently has eight 5-star reviews, one 4-star, and two 3-star reviews.

This is beyond ridiculousness. Look, people’s opinions vary widely. One person may love a book while another hates it. Reviewing can be highly subjective, but I’m not talking opinions here. There were even words MISSING in the middle of a sentence. The writer obviously slapped together a novel and barely even bothered to proofread the damn thing, let alone hire an editor or put forth any real effort in producing an acceptable book, before publishing it.

This kind of sloppy work reflects quite badly on self-published authors and the sad thing is that many other writers are to blame. There is a very real epidemic of “you give me a 5-star review and I’ll give you one” kind of behavior. I doubt I would get many 5-star reviews on any of my books because I am simply not willing to lie and put my professional reputation on the line by writing a fabulous review of material that simply is not good or even up to minimal professional standards. Just because you are publishing by yourself without the backing of a traditional publisher doesn’t mean that the rules go out the window. Your work needs to be every bit as polished as the pros if you ever want to sell any books outside of your inner circle of writers. Sure, you may get a handful of 5-star reviews from your friends, but you’ll never be able to break out to the next level and reach “real” readers if you don’t take the work seriously.

And you need to be careful.

Because someday somebody’s gonna tell you the awful, heartbreaking truth. It won’t be me, though. If I cannot honestly give a book at least three stars, I won’t review it at all. If you ask me to review book that I didn’t feel was up to par I will tell you, privately, why I won’t review it. I won’t give a book a bad review, but I’m not gonna lie and say it’s good when I don’t think that it is. I care far too much about my craft to cheapen it in that way.

My standards are really very simple. To me, a 3-star book is one that was well written and that I enjoyed enough, but I probably won’t remember for long. I read lots of books, so that’s not really a bad thing. A 4-star book is a well written one and one that I found really resonated with me. It’s a book that I would actively tell a friend , “Dude, you’ve gotta read this!” The mission of Wannabe Pride is to support indie authors, so I love to give good reviews whenever possible. If I can give a book three stars, I’ll put a review of it up on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If I can honestly give it four stars, I’ll try to write a review of it on my website such as Fur Ball Fever, Painted Faces, and As Wonderful As Want. However, I do worry about putting my honest 3-and 4-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, because my 4-star review can actually drag your average DOWN if all you’ve got so far is 5-star reviews!

As for a 5-star review? Well…I would reserve this rating for the best books I’ve ever read. Books that excel in style, characterization, and plot. A 5-star book is unputdownable. You get completely absorbed in the book and the characters grab you and just won’t let go. You will tell anyone and everyone about this miracle book that changed your life forever.

Pretty lofty standard?

You bet.

The standards for 5-star restaurants and hotels are subjective but lofty as well. Here are some of the criteria according to Consumer Traveler:

* Service that makes people feel like stars and important.

* Hotels where the staff is impeccably dressed and caters to clients’ needs and wants. For example, high tea being served using silver and perfectly white pressed linen. Cocktails should be served on a tray accompanied by cloth cocktail napkins and well-presented hor d’oeuvres.

*Cleanliness and décor are big 5-Star factors plus total attention to detail.

* Five-star service requires an effort on the part of the staff to understand the individual being served and to specifically tailor the service so that he or she feels completely at ease.

* The 5-Star service is uninterrupted by negotiation or by the customer having to explain or educate the personnel about their expectations. A five star establishment has already calibrated its service to the highest level.

*Every 5-Star restaurant is flawless when it comes to food and service. A large staff serves the courses but they’re choreographed to make it seem as though only one person waiting on you. There is no noise or bumping into other dining room personnel as wine is poured or during the meal. Guests aren’t rushed but when they ask for the bill, it should be processed in a timely manner..

Flawless. Service of the highest level. Total attention to detail.

The Michelin system reserves stars for exceptional restaurants, and gives up to three; the vast majority of recommended restaurants have no star at all. According to eHow.com, for a five-star rating, a hotel needs a concierge, valet parking and a fitness center, health center or spa. Many of these hotels also offer other services such as a casino, lounge or nightclub.

Giving a novel containing amateur and downright lazy spelling and grammatical errors a 5-star review is like giving a 5-star review to a Motel 6 in the middle of a rundown inner city. It’s ridiculous, misleading, and will ultimately destroy the integrity of the whole system.

Imagine giving an entire high school full of students straight-As.

If everybody wins, then nobody really does.

I implore readers and, in particular, the writing community to stop poisoning the literary waters by giving automatic glowing reviews for books that simply don’t deserve it. It is vital to the integrity of the self-publishing community, not to mention your own professional integrity and credibility, to demand and reward excellence. If we want to be taken seriously in the publishing industry, we’ve got to stop playing these games. I refuse to play “author” like little children play “house”. These days anybody can write a book, purchase a fancy book cover design, set up an “author page” and call themselves a real author without knowing anything about the craft of writing.

If you write a novel without learning the craft, publish a book without even proofreading it, and have the unmitigated gall to call yourself an author, then YOU ARE CHEATING ON A TEST THAT I HAVE SPENT A LIFETIME PREPARING FOR.

I implore you – if you’re going to publish a book, insist on the highest professional standards. Don’t sell yourself short by half-assing it. If you’re gonna do it, by God do your homework and do it right.

And, whatever you do, stop rewarding the people that don’t.

– Linda Fausnet

 

5 Things I Like About Being a Plotter and Not a Pantser

Writers generally fall under two categories: Plotters and Pantsers. Plotters are the ones who plot out their stories meticulously via treatments and/or detailed outlines before they begin actually writing out the story. Pantsers prefer exploring as they go. They know what the story is about in general and they know their characters and that’s enough for them to begin. They start writing and they figure out the story as they go, kind of letting the characters lead the way and see what happens.

I am a plotter. Big time. I find it very, very hard to understand how in the world anybody can be a pantser and come up with a decent, halfway coherent story without having to continually gut the story and start over and over again til the thing makes sense. But people do it all the time. And they love it! They love the sense of discovery and getting lost in the story. That’s great that it works for them, but pantsing is not for me. I started my writing career as a screenwriter where every word counts. You’ve only got 120 pages—max—to tell your story so there’s really no time to explore where you’re going. You’ve got to know exactly where you’re going and how you’re gonna get there. Now that I’ve switched to novel writing, I find I still like knowing exactly where I’m going.

I suppose it also depends on the kind of story you’re writing. If it’s especially plot driven, you’ve got to plan the plot points out very carefully. If your tale is more character-driven, perhaps you’ve got more time to explore. Anyway, here are 5 things I like about being a plotter:

  1. Set up and payoff. I find if I plan things out carefully, I’m able to set up a certain plot point or piece of humor and then pay it off later. I suppose you could accidently stumble upon a good payoff from something you’ve set up earlier as a pantser, but I find it’s a lot easier to set off a trap that you’ve intentionally set up earlier.

  2. Character development. I like to know what the character is going to learn and how she’s going to change by the end of the story. I know her specific flaws in the beginning and then I can plan on what other characters and situations will come along to help her to change her ways.

  3. Tighter plot. Whether I’m writing a middle-grade novel or adult fiction, I like to carefully plan out what’s going to happen and slowly dole out enough clues to keep the reader interested. I can’t imagine being able to do this if I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

  4. A lot of the hard work is done first. Since I work full-time and have two kids, I have to maximize my writing time and get as much done as possible in every writing session. I find I really hate sitting down to write and then not knowing what to write about! I don’t want to have to sit down and think about what comes next. I want to have a good idea of what scene I’m going to write and what’s supposed to happen. I also find that, by planning ahead, I can think of funnier and more entertaining things that can happen in the scene. For instance, if I know I’m going to write a scene about  a character who’s going to get a dog, I can think ahead of time about where he’s going to go, what kind of dogs he’s going to see, who he’s going to meet, and so forth. If I have time to think ahead, whether it be while I’m driving, in the shower, at work, etc, I find I can think of all kinds of interesting things that can happen and the scene I end up writing will be much richer than if I only had the hour or so before going to work to think about it.

  5. Better humor. Unlike fictional sitcom characters who can come up with brilliantly funny things to say right on the spot, I can’t always think of something clever right away. I’d love to be that witty, but I’m not. I need time to think. Often, I will come up with a clever line for a character to say that won’t be used until later chapters and there’s no way I will remember it by the time I get to that part. I consult my trusty outline so I won’t forget.So that’s the kind of writer I am.

Stay tuned for next week’s guest blogger, a panster, who will provide some insight on the pantser way of thinking. Of course, she’ll probably just make up the whole blog article as she goes along… :)

 

IT’S TIME FOR PEACH SCHNAPPS AND DRAG QUEENS

If I’m reposting this article, then it means one of the following has just happened:

1. I just finished the first draft of a new novel.

2. I just finished the final draft of a novel.

3. I just got an agent to represent me.

4. I just published a novel.

5. I just sold a screenplay.

If you’re the betting kind, I’d wager on one of the first two, because 99% of the time that’s what I’m celebrating. Besides, if I publish a novel or sell a screenplay, the party’s gonna include something stronger than Peach Schnapps…

Very few things are guaranteed in the life of a wannabe. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 listed above sure as hell aren’t. But one thing is for sure – I finish what I start. I don’t get tired halfway through a writing project and give up. When I start a novel, I will finish it. And that’s a big deal. Whatever happens to the book after that really isn’t under my control no matter how hard I work to market it to agents and publishers.

I once spoke to another wannabe writer who had a bottle of champagne chilling to only be opened on the day of her book launch. Like me, she didn’t even have an agent yet. It’s a nice idea to have the bubbly ready for when your book gets published…but what if that day never comes?

This kind of thing reminds me of Erma Bombeck’s essay entitled “If I had my life to live over”. One particular line always stuck with me for some reason. It was “I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.”

The point is – what are you waiting for?

As they say, tomorrow is promised to no one.

Well, today I finished a novel. It’s time to celebrate. Now. Not when some agent or publisher or editor tells me it’s okay to celebrate.

And what if you wait until the book launch to celebrate and it’s not everything you thought it would be? If you think publishing a book means you’re no longer a struggling writer, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. (reality check – – most published authors have day jobs and many first novels won’t earn out their advance). I’m a big believer in celebrating every victory you can because they can be very few and far between in the wannabe life.

Instead of champagne, my drink of choice for writerly victories is peach schnapps. The main character in my favorite novel that I’ve written drinks straight shots of peach schnapps, so now so do I. It’s funny. I’d never even tasted the stuff until Henry started drinking it…

Anyway, I keep a bottle of schnapps on hand only for special writing-related events. I drink a shot whenever I finish novel draft, get an especially good review of my manuscript, or receive any other kind of good writing news. For example, the time a NYC literary agent told me my novel had a “strong chance of publication” was definitely a schnapps-worthy event.

I even have a special schnapps-only shot glass I made at the pottery loft…

.

I find I really like the smell of peaches now because it smells like good news.

Another goofy tradition of mine is that every few months I like to settle down with a few beers (okay, many beers..) And watch one of my favorite movies – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – – – just for funsies. It occurred to me that I also tend to finish a novel draft every few months, so I decided to put the two traditions together.

 

So now when I finish a novel draft (or publish a novel….) I like to settle in with my drinks and watch the movie. There’s even a scene where the queens say ”chuggers!” and take a shot, which is the perfect time to break out the schnapps. It’s a really funny, feelgood type of movie (even more so when you’ve been drinking…) And it’s always such a fun way to celebrate finishing a novel. It’s important to me to take a little time to just be happy about finishing the book because the next step is to send out query letters and you never know how that’s going to go. I could publish this novel someday, but there is also the possibility that this could be the end of the line for this particular book. All the pages are freshly printed out on my desk and they may just stay there gathering dust forever. You just don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: I wanted to write a novel. So I did.

And I finished it today.

Bring on the schnapps.

QUERY LETTERS FOR SCREENPLAYS AND NOVELS

This is an “encore presentation” (remember when they were just reruns?) from a previously published blog post. Enjoy!

 

There are some basic similarities in writing queries for screenplays and novels, but there are also some fundamental differences. You need to figure out who to query and how to tailor your query letter for a literary agent, Hollywood agent, producer, or publisher.

Literary Agents: A literary agent, or perhaps an assistant, generally reads every query that arrives in their mailbox or inbox.

Find Agents here

Hollywood Agents: If your hair catches fire, a Hollywood agent will not pour their Evian water on your head without first checking your pockets to see if you already have a screenplay deal on the table. That may be a slight exaggeration. Slight. Hollywood agents are, as a rule, not interested in new writers. Even if they will consider newbies, they are usually referred by other industry professionals who can vouch for them.

Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Agent List Good luck….

You cannot get a producer to read your screenplay without an agent and you cannot get an agent unless you have signed a deal with a producer. That’s the conventional, “Catch 22” mentality in Hollywood. Except it’s not entirely true.

Hollywood Producers – You *can* get a producer to read your screenplay. It’s just a lot harder when you don’t have a Hollywood agent to submit your work on your behalf. If you write a well-composed query letter that clearly outlines the script you are trying to sell, you may get a producer, or an assistant, to read your screenplay. Please do not delude yourself into thinking you can get Jerry Bruckheimer or Steven Spielberg to read your script. Be reasonable. Send only to producers who are willing to read unsolicited queries or at least do not have a stated policy of no unsolicited queries. I’ve gotten two of my screenplays optioned this way.

Book Publishers – For your novel, you can try to send query letters to publishing companies directly but it is likely a waste of time. If you go to their website for their submission policy (and shame, shame, on you if don’t do this first!) you can find out whether or not the publisher is willing to look at material from unagented writers. More and more, publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited submissions and instead will work only through trusted agents. Your querying time is likely much better spent trying to land an agent than going to the publisher directly.

**As a general rule – If you’re shopping a screenplay, query producers. If you’re shopping a novel or nonfiction book, query literary agents.**

Tips for Queries for Both Screenplays and Novels

* Get to the main idea of your story quickly. You can even dive right into it in the first paragraph before you introduce yourself. You are trying to convince the reader that your story will SELL. Grab their interest right away. Describe in clear, powerful language who your main characters are and what they are battling. What do they want? What is the story about? Where is the conflict?

* Query only one project at a time. If you’ve written other books or screenplays, you can mention them in your brief bio paragraph but don’t talk them up here. You’re trying to sell your current project.

* Just describe the story itself, don’t praise it. You may think your story is “hilarious, entertaining, action-packed, or a tearjerker,” but that’s up to the reader to decide. If it’s not clear from your brief synopsis that your novel or screenplay is a comedy or a heavy drama, your query letter – or worse, your story – is not ready for submission.

* Include a brief biography of yourself. If you’ve won writing awards or placed in contests, mention those accomplishments here. If you are a professional writer as a day job (journalist, copywriter, technical writer), then say so. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have any writing credentials yet. If your story grabs the reader’s interest, you will get a request to read your manuscript or screenplay. If you have experience or a special background that qualifies you to write this particular story, describe it. If you wrote a story about World War II, then it’s relevant to explain that your grandparents were concentration camp survivors. If you’re an attorney and you’ve written a legal thriller, it can only help to mention your day job.

Tips for Book Queries

* Write a professional query letter that shows that you take your career seriously. Unless they have specifically stated that they do not accept unsolicited query letters or will only consider submissions by referral only, they will read your query letter. No need to dress it up to grab their attention. Make your story grab their attention.

* You can be creative, within reason. Some choose to write some or all of the query letter in their character’s voice. Do this only if you can do this effectively.

* If you’re querying about a novel, include the word count.

* You can mention whether or not a completed manuscript is ready for review. If it’s a nonfiction book, normally you prepare only a proposal and not the whole book. For a novel, you should have a complete manuscript ready to go.

Query Rant

Some suggest you just ignore all the rules

Tips for Screenplay Queries

* Write a logline. This is usually a one or two sentence description of your story. The logline is in addition to the brief synopsis of your story that you will include (just like in a fiction query).

* Be creative. Unlike literary agents, Hollywood agents and producers don’t necessarily read query letters. You need to make your letter stand out. If you’re marketing a comedy, feel free to make your query letter humorous. I put warning labels on the outside of my query letter and I submit a pre-rejected postcard where people can circle the reason they’re brushing me off (and a place where they can circle YES, I want to read your screenplay). Several producers told me it was the best query they’d ever received. Another producer called me to request the screenplay instead of sending back my rejection postcard because she thought it was clever and wanted to keep it! It’s tough out there in Hollywood – you’re at the bottom of the barrel if you don’t live in L.A. like me and don’t know anyone out there. You’ve got to work to be noticed. But it can be done. Show off your writing ability any way you can.

* Be original, but not gimmicky. Using colored paper, drawings, writing your query letter in crayon just for funsies is amateur and foolish.

How To Write a Screenplay Query that Will Make Producers Drool

Query Letter Catastrophes

For both novel and screenplay query letters, it all really comes down to the story. If your story is compelling and fresh with characters an audience can really care about, people will want to read it. As you review your query letter, ask yourself – can I sell this story? That’s exactly what any producer, publisher, or agent will be thinking. Make sure the answer is YES

 

Query Letters for Screenplays and Novels

There are some basic similarities in writing queries for screenplays and novels, but there are also some fundamental differences. You need to figure out who to query and how to tailor your query letter for a literary agent, Hollywood agent, producer, or publisher.

Literary Agents: A literary agent, or perhaps an assistant, generally reads every query that arrives in their mailbox or inbox.

Find Agents here  

Hollywood Agents: If your hair catches fire, a Hollywood agent will not pour their Evian water on your head without first checking your pockets to see if you already have a screenplay deal on the table. That may be a slight exaggeration. Slight. Hollywood agents are, as a rule, not interested in new writers. Even if they will consider newbies, they are usually referred by other industry professionals who can vouch for them.

 Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Agent List  Good luck….

You cannot get a producer to read your screenplay without an agent and you cannot get an agent unless you have signed a deal with a producer. That’s the conventional, “Catch 22” mentality in Hollywood. Except it’s not entirely true. 

Hollywood Producers – You *can* get a producer to read your screenplay. It’s just a lot harder when you don’t have a Hollywood agent to submit your work on your behalf. If you write a well-composed query letter that clearly outlines the script you are trying to sell, you may get a producer, or an assistant, to read your screenplay. Please do not delude yourself into thinking you can get Jerry Bruckheimer or Steven Spielberg to read your script. Be reasonable. Send only to producers who are willing to read unsolicited queries or at least do not have a stated policy of no unsolicited queries. I’ve gotten two of my screenplays optioned this way.

Book Publishers – For your novel, you can try to send query letters to publishing companies directly but it is likely a waste of time. If you go to their website for their submission policy (and shame, shame, on you if don’t do this first!) you can find out whether or not the publisher is willing to look at material from unagented writers. More and more, publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited submissions and instead will work only through trusted agents. Your querying time is likely much better spent trying to land an agent than going to the publisher directly.

**As a general rule – If you’re shopping a screenplay, query producers. If you’re shopping a novel or nonfiction book, query literary agents.**

Tips for Queries for Both Screenplays and Novels

* Get to the main idea of your story quickly. You can even dive right into it in the first paragraph before you introduce yourself. You are trying to convince the reader that your story will SELL. Grab their interest right away. Describe in clear, powerful language who your main characters are and what they are battling. What do they want? What is the story about? Where is the conflict?

* Query only one project at a time. If you’ve written other books or screenplays, you can mention them in your brief bio paragraph but don’t talk them up here. You’re trying to sell your current project.

* Just describe the story itself, don’t praise it. You may think your story is “hilarious, entertaining, action-packed, or a tearjerker,” but that’s up to the reader to decide. If it’s not clear from your brief synopsis that your novel or screenplay is a comedy or a heavy drama, your query letter – or worse, your story – is not ready for submission.

* Include a brief biography of yourself. If you’ve won writing awards or placed in contests, mention those accomplishments here. If you are a professional writer as a day job (journalist, copywriter, technical writer), then say so. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have any writing credentials yet. If your story grabs the reader’s interest, you will get a request to read your manuscript or screenplay. If you have experience or a special background that qualifies you to write this particular story, describe it. If you wrote a story about World War II, then it’s relevant to explain that your grandparents were concentration camp survivors. If you’re an attorney and you’ve written a legal thriller, it can only help to mention your day job.

 Tips for Book  Queries

Write a professional query letter that shows that you take your career seriously. Unless they have specifically stated that they do not accept unsolicited query letters or will only consider submissions by referral only, they will read your query letter. No need to dress it up to grab their attention. Make your story grab their attention. 

* You can be creative, within reason. Some choose to write some or all of the query letter in their character’s voice. Do this only if you can do this effectively. 

* If you’re querying about a novel, include the word count.

 * You can mention whether or not a completed manuscript is ready for review. If it’s a nonfiction book, normally you prepare only a proposal and not the whole book. For a novel, you should have a complete manuscript ready to go.

 How To Write a Query Letter (advice from Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner)

Query Dos and Don’ts  

Query Rant  

Some suggest you just ignore all the rules  

Tips for Screenplay Queries

* Write a logline. This is usually a one or two sentence description of your story. The logline is in addition to the brief synopsis of your story that you will include (just like in a fiction query).

* Be creative. Unlike literary agents, Hollywood agents and producers don’t necessarily read query letters. You need to make your letter stand out. If you’re marketing a comedy, feel free to make your query letter humorous. I put warning labels on the outside of my query letter and I submit a pre-rejected postcard where people can circle the reason they’re brushing me off (and a place where they can circle YES, I want to read your screenplay). Several producers told me it was the best query they’d ever received.  Another producer called me to request the screenplay instead of sending back my rejection postcard because she thought it was clever and wanted to keep it! It’s tough out there in Hollywood – you’re at the bottom of the barrel if you don’t live in L.A. like me and don’t know anyone out there. You’ve got to work to be noticed. But it can be done. Show off your writing ability any way you can.

* Be original, but not gimmicky. Using colored paper, drawings, writing your query letter in crayon just for funsies is amateur and foolish.

How To Write a Screenplay Query that Will Make Producers Drool

Query Letter Catastrophes 

For both novel and screenplay query letters, it all really comes down to the story. If your story is compelling and fresh with characters an audience can really care about, people will want to read it. As you review your query letter, ask yourself – can I sell this story? That’s exactly what any producer, publisher, or agent will be thinking. Make sure the answer is YES.