4 Tips on How To Write A Compelling Query Letter

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If you’re a querying writer nothing makes you want to jump off a cliff faster than having to write a query letter or dreaded synopsis. Now, as painful it is to write one, it’s also the only way to get a literary agent’s attention and your ticket to traditional publishing if that’s something you’re aiming for. Now, I’ve written a myriad variety of query letters for different projects and I’ve gotten full manuscript requests for them, so I have some experience in writing them. I’m not going to say that I’m a full on expert as agents are all different and some may respond better to one type of query than another, but if you’re just starting out or wish to amp your query writing game, then check out below for some tips on how to nail a winning query letter!

TIP ONE. ALWAYS START WITH A SALUTATION.

The classic Dear is fine in this case, followed by Mr./Ms. and the agent’s surname. Please make sure to spell their name correctly and for the love of all that is important to you, NEVER and I mean NEVER open a query with “To Whom It May Concern” unless you want to end up in the rejection pile pronto.

TIP TWO. BEGIN YOUR LETTER WITH A HOOK.

Before you delve into your MS’s plot and amazing characters, you should catch the agent’s attention right away and the best way to do that is by delivering your hook right away. What makes this MS stand out for all the rest? Find out what it is and hook your reader stat!

TIP THREE. NO MORE THAN THREE SHORT PARAGRAPHS TO EXPLAIN YOUR PLOT.

After you’ve delivered your hook, now you can explain what your plot is, what your main protagonists are, and what the main conflict is. This is also where state the GENRE, WORD COUNT, and any comp titles.

TIP FOUR. SUCCINT SHORT BIO AT THE END.

This is where you write why you’re the perfect person to write this book (say if you’re writing about a drug addict and you’re an ex addict or if you’re an own voices author), whatever it is you can state it here but keep it short!

And this wraps up my four tips for writing a compelling query! Let me know if this has helped you!

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3 Tips for Writers

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If you are a writer, or aspire to be one, you have probably experienced some of the symptoms of writer’s block. Writers find that they can write only when they feel inspired and their minds are energized. When writer’s block strikes, it is often followed by an overwhelming sense of fatigue and frustration. Unfortunately, there is almost no way to combat writer’s block. The best you can do is wait it out.

However, writer’s block does not have to be the end of the line if you are willing to accept some practical steps that will help you to overcome these feelings and continue writing. Keep in mind that writing is an extremely personal process; as a writer, you are responsible for your own feelings and thoughts, so try not to blame yourself if your creative juices seem to dry up at any point. this state will most likely persist until the writing session is complete or until the next time that artists’ muse visits them again.

Here are some tips to help you to get past writer’s block and to finish your piece:

  1. Take a break. If you are experiencing writer’s block, a break can actually be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, this is possibly the last thing that you want to do when writer’s block strikes because it usually means that you have not been getting much work done on your task at hand. However, taking a break from writing is sometimes the only way to get past this phase of writer’s block. During your break, do something that has nothing to do with the things that you are writing about currently. Try to relax and unwind, whether it’s by going for a walk in the park or taking a hot bath at the end of a long day.
  2. Write anyway. The most important thing to remember is that writer’s block does not have to be the end of your creative process. Even terrible rough drafts can be edited at a later date and polished into a better finished final draft, so don’t worry about your rough draft not being the next bestseller. You can fix things up even if you have little written, but you cannot fix a blank page.
  3. Read your genre. If you’re writing for a specific genre (ie. Horror, thriller, romance) it’s best to read a lot of books in that genre so you know what publishing companies are looking for. Not to mention that the more you read the better you will become at writing and the more ideas you’ll have from reading new material! It’s definitely a win/win situation.

These are my three tips for writers, share below if you have any ones that work for you!

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3 Tips That Will Make You A Better Writer

There are many books that explore the craft of writing but these tips are what will really change the way you work and write.

ONE. WRITE EVERY DAY.

By this, I don’t mean that you have to write a specific word count every day, because many people will feel a sense of failure if they don’t accomplish what most professional writers do. But since many of us that are writing have day jobs, trying to crank out 1,200 words daily is almost impossible. The secret is, there is no magic number. Write every day, even if all you can write for that day is ONE SENTENCE. But slowly, if you continue, in a year you’ll finally have a rough draft of a novel.

TWO. COMPLETE ONE PROJECT.

The problem I see with many writers is that they never complete a short story or novel. Instead, they begin a project, and once they struggle they let go and begin another. In the end, many of them end up having ten unfinished projects, and no single finished project to show for their efforts. Focus on completing ONE project so that you can then have something to edit once you’re done. You’ll never see your writing career launch if you’re always in the phase of starting new projects and never completing any of them.

THREE. READ BOOKS IN THE GENRE YOU WRITE.

Publishing is a business, which means that in order to see what is selling in your given genre, you have to read books from that genre. I don’t mean just one or two. I mean, A LOT. You should aim to read at least one book a month. Reading should be seen as a way to study the craft of writing. This will be way more helpful to you than dishing out hundreds of dollars for a writing workshop that lasts three days where you accomplish nothing.

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Poetry: Bad Habit

I’m like a smoker

In need of a cigarette

I need you, even if

I know you’re detrimental

To my health

But the rush you give me

Is worth more

Than saving myself.

smoke

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Happy New Year & 2020 Goals

2020

Happy New Year, peeps! I hope that the new year has begun with a bang or at least in a very pleasant way! Just like the years before, I’ve decided to see what goals I had set last year and what I accomplished during the year, and also what my new goals are for the new year.

2019 Goals & What I accomplished

  • Finish writing Girl That You Fear (DONE, just need to edit now)
  • Finish short story Pink Rabbits (Didn’t do, but DID write Fragile Fruit with Erica Ruhe and will be published by Running Wild Press this summer and also have my short story, Good Sister Bad Sister appear in Betty Bites Back)
  • Write Screenplay (Didn’t happen, but DID begin to write a screenplay)
  • Read over 50 books (I actually read 64)
  • I wanted to focus more on book reviews & author interviews and I did
  • I wanted to try more cream-based cosmetics and I did (esp. from Glossier)
  • I wanted to cover more events but didn’t see any that I was interested in, although I did get to cover Comic-Con and Shriekfest.

2020 GOALS

Writing

  • Edit my novel Girl that You Fear & send to agents
  • Finish editing my novel Wicked Game
  • Write a short film screenplay so I can send to Crypt TV
  • Write a feature-length screenplay
  • Complete another poetry book
  • Promote Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology 

Reading

  • Read at least 50 books

Beauty

  • I’ll make this the year that I’ll actually give lip gloss a fair chance (been thinking about trying out either Jeffree Star’s lipglosses or Glossier’s lipgloss)
  • Offer new colours for my Nox Girl Cosmetics Shop
  • Sleep more
  • Try new subscription boxes

Blogging

  • More reviews: films, beauty products, & books
  • Increase readership
  • Will continue my Throwback Thursday segments but won’t do it once a month like last year but once every 2 months
  • Will begin a new segment in my blog that will be once a month called “Love or Hype?” where I’ll try out, watch, read or listen to something that is uber popular but I have never given in to and will report back if I DID enjoy it or if it was just hyped up.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR?

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5 Unique Gifts that Writers Will LOVE to Receive

holiday

Buying gifts can sometimes become a stressful chore, especially when you’re struggling what to give to someone that is close to you. But if you’ve got a writer in your life, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered pals and gals. Below are some seriously awesome gifts that anyone who enjoys writing will be thrilled to receive.

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

Across The Page

What You’ll Get: Across The Page is a unique subscription box for writers looking to learn and find inspiration from cross-genre writers, specifically screenwriters and playwrights. Each month’s box is curated around a new story and includes a copy of the script, screenplay, book, and movie or stage play. Past boxes have included stories like The Martian, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Few Good Men.

Scribbler

This box is curated by authors, for authors so of course, I had to include this! Each box comes with one writing theme, one fiction novel, author tips, writing themed gifts, plus the chance to speak to a publishing professional!

BOOKS ON WRITING

savethecat

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.

onwriting

On Writing by Stephen King

The master of horror shares his love for the writing craft and tips on how to do better. The book reads easily, not in a preachy way. It’s in a conversational tone and shows how much King went through to get to where he is. Nobody gets to the top without having a learned a trick or two on the way.

USB DRIVES

As a writer, you always need to save your work and what better way than to keep your precious manuscripts saved than to use the handy USB drives. Every writer needs a couple of them.

foldingdesk

PORTABLE DESK

Don’t always have a desk with you? No worries! Bring the desk with you! Any space can easily become your writing nook with this awesome portable desk.

NOTEBOOKS

When you’re on the go, sometimes writing can be difficult. That’s why any writer will appreciate it if you gift them a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or big. Writers are equal opportunity when it comes to notebooks and journals, we’re not that picky when we just need any scrap of paper to write down our ideas!

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Flash Fiction: Driver, Surprise Me

doll4

I could still feel Rex’s hands wrapped around my neck when I met Damon. I shuddered at the thought. Maybe it was because he was wearing a suit, or maybe because I needed a getaway car, but when Damon stopped the car to ask me if I needed a lift I nodded – still dazed from the lack of oxygen. It was only after I got in that I noticed them. The whole back seat was lined up with porcelain dolls. Their glassy eyes and red lips painted in a perpetual smirk kind of creeped me out.

“Where to?” he asked, dazzling me with his smile.

I gulped – unsure of where I was headed. I hadn’t planned that far ahead when I ran out of the apartment.

“The bus station,” I hesitated.

“Getting out of the city?”

I nodded.

“Where to?”

“Florida,” I lied.

He nodded, as he tried to make small talk but I wasn’t listening.

I kept staring at the rearview mirror so I could steal glances at the dolls. I was transfixed by their disarming beauty and impeccable detail. Each doll dressed in a particular style, goth, hippy, posh, 17th century baroque, to mention a few. Once he caught me staring at them, our gaze met in the mirror for a fraction of a second before I quickly diverted my focus.

I looked down at my hands. Thought about how they had been covered in blood an hour ago. My mind raced, replaying the scene. The blade coming down and his hands around my neck. He didn’t think I had it in me. He thought I was weak. But boy, had he been wrong. Dead wrong. I stifled a chuckle.

“They used to be broken you know…” Damon interrupted my thoughts.

“What?”

“The dolls. I fixed them.” There was something about the way his eyes moved over my body that made me feel as though he were prying into my very core.

“Oh,” I replied. I suddenly felt uncomfortable. The space between us seemed too little at that moment, and I willed him to drive faster. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he suddenly brought the car to an abrupt stop. I would’ve flung forwards and probably through the windshield if I hadn’t worn my seat belt. Before I had a chance to react, a rag covered my mouth and I blacked out.

I’ve gotten used to it by now. Sitting here and waiting for the night to go by as he drives throughout the city. He fills our nights with music as we ride. The Doors, Nirvana, at times even Queen. We’re in a loop, hapless passengers of a demonic ride. We pass through Soho, Park Avenue, across the Brooklyn Bridge. My glassy eyes take in the city lights while my red lips are frozen in a perpetual smirk.

But I’m no longer broken.

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Upcoming Anthology: Running Wild Stories Volume 4

runningwild

Sometime in April, my friend and fellow Inkblotter, Erica Ruhe and I decided to pen a short story together. We figured that if we could join forces, using our strengths to collaborate then perhaps we could write a very compelling and moving story that both of us could be proud of. That’s how our short story, Fragile Fruit was born.

For some time I wanted to write a short story set in Sicily in the late 1960s. I had always been intrigued by how vastly different Sicily was to the rest of the world during that time when it came to women’s rights. 1968 was widely known as the “peak of the sexual revolution” and yet, in Sicily, it was very common for young men to kidnap girls they fancied and rape them, and then said girl was expected to marry their rapist in what was known as a “rehabilitation marriage.” The only way for a woman to regain her sense of worth and dignity from a rape would be to marry her rapist, which would make her an “honourable woman” again and thus automatically extinguish the crime for the man. Franca Viola was the first woman to stand up to her rapist and say NO. She refused to marry him and it made international news, as many women saw her as a pioneer for cultural progress and emancipation. While many men, on the other hand, saw her as a threat.

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Franca Viola, the Sicilian feminist icon that inspired Fragile Fruit

Inspired by Viola’s courage, we decided to pen a story about a girl, Marietta who too, refused to marry her rapist but instead of remaining in her hometown of Maletto, fled to New York in hopes of a new life. Four years later, Marietta is forced to return to Sicily when her mother is on her death bed. She soon finds that she’s going to have to find a way to make peace with her demons and her past before both threaten to overtake her.

But when her rapist Alfio turns up dead a few days after her return, all eyes are on Marietta. But did she really do it?

fv

So, since April I’ve been sending this short story to various literary journals and magazines and of course as the norm of any writing it was rejected by a lot of them, despite each of them stating that they had enjoyed the short story very much. Flash forward to last week when I receive an email from Running Wild Press that Fragile Fruit was selected to be in the upcoming anthology Running Wild Stories Volume 4. Of course, both Erica and I are thrilled about this opportunity and that our creative child finally found a home. I don’t know yet when the anthology will be released (sometime mid-2020), so keep your eyes peeled for that info!

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Poetry: The Way You Left Me

cry

I housed dreams in my heart

You used razor blades to tear them out.

Hope lingered on my lips

You bit down hard till they bled.

You left me bloody and empty.

In a world that wants us to be whole and pristine.

***

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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I Was Friends with J.T. Leroy: From Fame to Hoax

jtreal

Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Asia Argento in 2002

J.T. Leroy was one of the greatest literary hoaxes of the internet era. It’s also proof that reality is much more outrageous than fiction. Up until the New York Times’ Warren St. John uncovered the hoax in January 2006. Up until then, J.T. Leroy blazed the literary scene and was pretty much a rockstar with the celebrity friends (Bono, Madonna, Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Michael Pitt, Gus Van Sant, and Asia Argento just to name a few). Shirley Manson even went so far as to write not one, but TWO songs inspired by J.T., Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) and Bleed Like Me. But J.T. Leroy wasn’t really who he claimed to be, the son of a truckstop whore in West Virginia and former junkie and prostitute himself. He wrote about his childhood in West Virginia in the book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things and Sarah. Both books were published as fiction, and yet in interviews, he suggested that they were based on fact.

But up until 1999, no one had ever seen Leroy. In fact, Leroy never did book signings or readings. It wasn’t until sometime in 2000 that Leroy began to do public appearances, and he was always disguised by a wig and sunglasses.

In 2006, we found out exactly why he was always in disguise because J.T. Leroy never existed. Rather he was an “avatar” for writer Laura Albert who hired her sister-in-law at the time, Savannah Knoop to portray J.T. in public.

winonajt

Winona Ryder with Savannah Knoop as “J.T.”

How to best describe the moral outrage that many felt when they found out they had been “duped” by the duo were best said by Warren St. John when he stated, “The books are fiction but the marketing device to get us to read them was a lie, pure and simple.”

Recently, a film was made based on Savannah Knoop’s memoir, Girl Boy Girl: How I Became J.T. Leroy, where androgynous It-Girl Kristen Stewart brought to life both Knoop and the enigmatic Leroy, while a wildly unrecognizable Laura Dern played Laura Albert as well as Leroy’s so-called “manager,” the cockney-accented Speedie.

jtkris

Laura Dern playing Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Kristen Stewart playing Savannah Knoop as “J.T. Leroy”

In the film, Asia Argento was played by Diane Kruger (although they changed her name to Eva, probably to avoid any legal issues). Although the film excelled with these actress’ performance, the film lacked to explore how writing was therapeutic for Laura Albert and how that propelled her to hide behind J.T. Leroy. It also failed to address the fact that maybe J.T. wouldn’t have had so many people willing to be helpful towards him had he not been a young, white male. One of the most poignant moments in the movie was towards the end, when after the hoax was exposed and Savannah reveals to Laura Albert that she’s planning to write a book about her experience portraying J.T., Albert replies with, “Remember, just because you played a writer, doesn’t make you a writer.” A little too tongue in cheek.

For years, I’ve avoided writing about J.T. because for me he wasn’t just an author that I admired (he was so young and had already accumulated so many accolades and for someone like me who was an aspiring writer at the time, he was such a great inspiration), but he was also a friend. You see, back in the early 2000s there used to exist Yahoo mail groups, and somehow I found myself being in the one dedicated to J.T. Leroy, which was run by the actual author. At some point sometime in late 2001, he and I began to correspond. And our correspondence lasted up until The New York Times unveiled the hoax in 2006. He and I would talk about books, movies, cartoons (we were both obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants) and chocolates. In fact, on several occasions, I sent him Italian chocolates.

Watching the movie J.T. Leroy was kinda triggering in the sense that it reminded me of so many J.T. things that I had forgotten over the years. It also left me sad, because although he didn’t exist, in some ways he did and his memory remains alive in those that had a chance to be friends with him. Even after all these years, when I visited San Francisco in 2016, I found myself going to places that he had suggested I visit so many years ago (Ghirardelli Square being one of them), and also Polk Street (only because it was predominately featured in Leroy’s final book, Harold’s End.

polk street

Pictured at Polk Street in San Francisco with my cousin in August of 2016

In today’s age of social media, Laura Albert wouldn’t have been capable to pull off the hoax for very long. But for me, the fact that she not only managed to pull it off, but to market J.T. in such a way that had him picking up awesome gigs left and right (he wrote for Vogue, got to interview Billy Corgan’s short-lived band Swan for The Rolling Stone, and wrote the screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s Elephant). In other words, Laura Albert was a master class in marketing and promoting, and I think any author would benefit from being more like her in that regard.

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Laura Albert the writer using “J.T. Leroy” as her avatar

I know some people in the literary world still shun Laura Albert today, but no one can take away the fact that the novels she wrote provided solace to many of those that had succumbed to the child abuse she depicted in them. Maybe, the hoax went on for so long because we all wanted J.T. to be real, and in believing it, he ultimately became real.

I miss you, J.T. There’s a part of me that still wishes that someday you’ll find your voice again and we’ll get another book.

Here’s hoping, but I’m not holding my breath.

jtbono

Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Bono sometime in 2003

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