Weird Writing Trends: Sexy Stalkers?

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I’ve noticed a rather strange trend in writing and YA novels. It isn’t really new, per say, and I suspect
that a certain best-selling series-turned blockbuster movies may have helped to kick it off, but every once in a while I see books employ sexy stalkers and I don’t really understand it. 

Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean about “sexy stalker.” 

A sexy stalker is a very attractive guy (or girl, hypothetically, though I haven’t seen this yet) who follows around/creeps on/knows way too much about/appears in bedrooms (or other private places)/aka STALKS the protagonist of the novel. Usually the protagonist is female and usually she doesn’t mind the stalking. Usually she falls in love with her stalker and so it’s all ok. Usually they end up in some kind of relationship and all of that strange behavior is chalked up to love and protectiveness

It’s weird.

The thing I don’t understand, is that stalkers are a real thing. There are actually people out there who obsessively and inappropriately follow around and “research” an unfortunate victim of their so-called affection. There are actually cases of women and girls (and probably boys and men, too) who are afraid to go places or even be at home alone because of said harassment. There are restraining orders and police and courts involved and it’s not a pretty thing. 

It’s also definitely not sexy. 

Stalkers are scary. They make people actually fear for their lives. They make people too scared to go to school, or work, or whatever the case may be. 

They don’t make people fall in love, and a relationship with a stalker isn't normal. 

When I’ve seen it in books, I’ll admit that for the most part, I’ve ignored it. I’ve quirked my eyebrow at the weirdness and the protagonist’s blanket acceptance of stalkerish tendencies and moved on with the story. 

But it still got me thinking. It still made me wonder why it’s ok for boys to be stalkers in books—no, why it’s sexy for boys to be stalkers in books. I’m wondering why our female protagonists are falling in love with boys who have borderline control issues and overprotective/obsessive tendencies. 

I’m wondering what we’re telling kids when our protagonists have boyfriends who sneak into their bedrooms to watch them sleep at night, and follow them around when they’re out with their friends to presumably save them when they’re attacked.

Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of relationship just doesn’t seem healthy. Or sexy. Or in any way desirable. 

But maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. 

I want to hear from you: have you seen the sexy stalkers trend? Am I the only one who finds it strange?

Romance in Writing: Murder the Insta-Love

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Without naming names, I'm sure most of you can think of at least one novel you've read in which the characters fell in love far too quickly. Where the relationship evolves from learning each other's names to making out and saying the l-word in the span of a couple chapters or in-story days. 

I'm talking about the second of two dangers I mentioned in my recent writing romance well post—insta-love.

There are two major problems with insta-love, namely, it's unrealistic and it cheapens the romance.

Why is it unrealistic? Let's look at everyday life—while there are cases of love at first sight, the truth is that those instances are far from the majority. Relationships take time to build, and that initial excited infatuation often fades over time (this is the difference between a crush and love. Some scientists believe there are three stages to love—and needless to say, the first stage is not true love).

The deeper problem beneath being unrealistic is that your readers may stop to question it—and any moment that your readers stop reading to question something in your book, is a moment that they've been pulled out of the narrative, something that as a writer, you want to avoid at all costs. Love and romance between two characters should feel natural, but if your readers are questioning it, then the romance clearly needs work.

Why do I say that insta-love cheapen the romance? A relationship between your characters should be special. If it truly matters to your characters (and it should if you intend to make them romantic partners), then you need to make it matter to your readers. If the characters fall together instantly, however, then the relationship won't have time to build—not between your characters, and not to your readers, either. Remember, it's not just your characters that have to get used to each other—your readers need to get used to your characters and their relationships as well.

Ultimately, your goal is to make your characters fall in love, yes, but it's also to make your readers fall in love with your characters and the relationship they have.

If you suspect that your characters may have fallen victim to insta-love, then there's a very good chance that they might have (we writers have excellent instincts—we just don't always want to listen to them). To make sure, however, I recommend getting some CPs and beta readers to take a look at your WIP and ask them to look out for insta-love. Like most things in writing, it's much easier to recognize a flaw in someone else's work than it is to recognize it in your own.

Have you ever written or read insta-love? If the former, how did you fix it? If the latter, how did it affect your perception of relationship?

How (Not) to Write a Blog Post

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  1. Open up a Pages/Word/TextPad/Whatever document. 
  2. Stare at the screen for a minimum of thirty minutes. 
  3. Scroll through your Twitter stream to look for “inspiration.” *wink wink* 
  4. Check your e-mail. And tumblr. And Facebook. 
  5. Open up that blank document again. 
  6. Realize you’re hungry and eat breakfast.
    1. Watch the newest episode of Project Runway while eating breakfast. 
    2. Get totally distracted and watch the full hour-long episode instead of just fifteen minutes like you planned.
  7. Stare at that blank document for another fifteen minutes while internally brainstorming some blog post ideas. 
  8. Start daydreaming about the ending of that Project Runway episode, instead. 
  9. Remember that reading is awesome inspiration and pick up a book. 
  10. Read ten chapters before realizing that you still haven’t written that post. 
  11. Read one more chapter. 
  12. Just one more. 
  13. Okay, THIS is the last one, I swear.
  14. Wait. The author KILLED OFF YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER? Throw the book aside and sit down in front of that blog post again. 
  15. Stare for another ten minutes. 
  16. Remember you haven’t done laundry in too long and get that done. 
  17. Oh, and you really should do those dishes while you’re at it. 
  18. Is that a spot on the counter? Maybe you should clean that, too. 
  19. Sit down at your computer and actually start brainstorming for that blog post. 
  20. Oh look! Your CP sent you another chapter. Time for reading! 
  21. You’re hungry again. You can’t really be expected to write a decent blog post on an empty stomach, can you? Eat lunch. 
  22. Realize that a new episode of Vikings is on Hulu, too. Watch that as you eat. 
  23. This episode is ridiculously good and there’s only another half hour left. What’s another half hour? Finish the episode. 
  24. Rage about the end of the episode as you sit down to write that post again. 
  25. Your phone is ringing. You should get that. 
  26. Talk to your grandma for five minutes. Act surprised when those five minutes turns into an hour. 
  27. Open up that document and put it in fullscreen mode. You’re getting serious now. It’s time to actually write this darned post. 
  28. Stare. 
  29. Stare.
  30. Stare.
  31. Stare. 
  32. Get frustrated and write a post about how not to write a blog post. 


How to Write Romance Well

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I received an interesting question over the weekend from a lovely reader (thanks, Robin) that uncovered an area that I haven't thoroughly discussed here at Writability. 

I'm talking about romance. 

I'll admit that I started this post with some trepidation, as I do not write genre romance. Now, that's not to say that I don't ever write romance—in fact, I often include a romantic subplot in my novels—but for me, romance isn't the core of the story, it's more of an enhancement. 

Nevertheless, even as a subplot, romance can go drastically wrong if not handled correctly, and so I still think it's important to discuss how to write it effectively. 

I suspect that romance in writing is something that every writer handles a little differently. For me, I usually establish what characters will be romantically involved before I write a word (with exception to instances where characters surprise me). At the very beginning of the writing process, I usually have a general sense of who the characters are, what they are like and a bit of their background, but I don't really get to know the true core of my characters until the writing begins. 

In my experience, the romantic subplots unfold much the same way—a natural growing relationship between two characters rather than a meticulously planned this then that plot. That's not to say that I don't plan it at all—I usually set down milestones while planning/outlining (first date, first kiss, etc.), but I try to be as flexible as possible while writing it. 

There are two dangers that I look out for when working out romantic relationships between characters:

  1. Forced love. I've written a post detailing the dangers of forced romance in writing, so I'm not going to dive into it here. What I will say, is that the danger of over-planning a romantic relationship between characters is this forced romance. It's pretty easy to tell if your characters are victim to this danger—the relationship between them will feel stiff and unnatural, and reaching those milestones will feel much more difficult than it should be. The romance should unfold naturally, so if you're fighting your characters to get them to like each other, that's a pretty good sign that you might want to reconsider your romantic subplot.

  2. Insta-love. This totally clever term was coined by one of my CPs, and I have stolen it (with permission) will be using it from here on out. Insta-love is a problem on the opposite side of the spectrum, and it's one that many writers often struggle with. Sometimes, when writing romance, we writers start to get a little impatient. We want to get to the good parts—the first kisses and the first l-word and those moments in romance that make our heart flutter. And sometimes, in our eagerness to get to the good stuff, we push our characters along a little too quickly. We end up with love at first sight and premature kisses and saying I love you so quickly that our readers get whiplash.

    The good news is that while this is a common problem, it's relatively easy to fix in revision. Your characters have chemistry—this is good—you just need to push on the brakes a little so it doesn't feel so sudden. Remember, most relationships don't form overnight, and if you want your readers to fall in love with your romance, you need to give them time, too. 
Once you've avoided those two major dangers, you can breathe easily knowing you're likely on the right track with your romance.

And for examples of particularly well-written romantic subplots, check out Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  

What tips do you have for writing romance? Any book recommendations with well-written romantic elements?

5 Truths I Wish I Knew When I Began Writing

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I sometimes think back to new writer me. The younger version of myself who began writing the first ever novel, fully expecting to get it published. The one with timed goals like get an agent this year or be published by age x.

Looking back, I can smile at that version of myself, because while she is very different from who I am today, she was brave, and without her courage, this blog and the large majority of my manuscripts would not exist today.

However, like most new writers, I was pretty naïve when I first started writing. And while my naïveté didn’t do any permanent damage, my journey might have been a little easier if I knew these five writing truths that I know today:

  1. It’s ok if your first book doesn’t get published. Or your second. Or your fifth. Deep down inside, I suppose some part of me suspected this was true, but the thing is, I wanted to be an exception (we all do, I suspect). I was determined to be the writer who debuted with her first ever novel, so it was hard to finally put that first manuscript away and move on to something new.

    It was hard the second time, too. And the third.

    I’m not sure that it ever gets any easier, but the most important thing is to accept that it’s ok. You aren’t a failure because your first or third or sixth novel didn’t get published, nor are you worth any less than the writers who do. Every writer’s journey is different, and yours is yours alone.

  2. Some days you’ll think your writing is amazing, and other days you’ll think you suck. This is normal. It doesn’t sound normal, and when you’re on those low days, it certainly doesn’t feel normal, but even published NYT best-selling writers feel this way. The key is to write through the highs and lows, and on those days where it feels like everything you write is crap, know that you can make it better.

  3. Time is on your side. I wrote a post about this a while back, so I won’t go into the details, but in short, we writers are lucky because time works for us. Manuscripts aren’t perishable, and neither is the ability to write.

  4. Trunking a novel doesn’t mean giving up. Trunking a novel means moving on, it means taking the skills you’ve learned from writing previous manuscripts and applying it to something new. It means accepting that maybe your last novel wasn’t ready yet, but that doesn’t mean it never will.

    Trunking a novel means a lot of things, but it never means giving up.

  5. Reading is more than just a fun way to pass the time. Have I mentioned lately how essential it is for writers to read? One of the best ways to learn new styles and writing tricks and see examples of writing that works, is to read. There are literally millions of books out there—take advantage of them and read your way into becoming a better writer. 
What writing truths do you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

Query Tip: Keep Track of Your Submissions

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The submission process is often a time of high anxiety for the writer. Between the seemingly endless waiting period, the inevitable rejections and the half-excited half-terrified jumpiness that comes with the arrival of every new e-mail, the query wars are nothing to scoff at. 

But while certain anxieties are pretty near inevitable when dealing with the submission process, a little organization can go a long way to making the process of sending those dreaded query letters a little easier.

I keep track of all of my sent queries in an Excel spreadsheet meant to help me before and after the query is sent. While I’m researching, I keep track of all potential submissions in this spreadsheet, organized by agency. I include information like hints for personalization (to that specific agent), what exactly they’re looking for (ergo: why I’m querying them), submission policies, average response time, and e-mail.

Once I have everything filled in, I usually have more than enough information to tailor my query to that specific agent, which makes it much easier to tweak my query as necessary.

After the query is sent, I keep track of the date on the spreadsheet. While this type of information isn’t immediately useful, it does become helpful to keep a record of the date you sent your queries and the date you received a response (whether positive or negative), to help get a general idea as to actual response times (or at least your experience of said agent’s response time).

The final bit of usefulness from this spreadsheet is a little sobering, but useful nonetheless. The truth is, regardless of how incredible your query and your book is, chances are you aren’t going to get a 100% positive response rate. Keeping record of who has already seen your query can save you from accidentally re-querying an agent with the same novel (which is helpful because unless you’ve made enormous revisions, chances are an agent who rejected your query doesn’t want to see it again).

While I won’t say that this sort of organized record keeping is mandatory for querying writers, I will say that it’s helpful in the long run to keep some sort of systemized record of your submissions.

After all, it’s unlikely that you’ll regret keeping a record, but not so unlikely that you’ll be glad you did.

Do you keep a record of your submissions while querying? What methods do you use to keep organized? 

Do You Listen to Audiobooks?

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After discussing whether I prefer print or e-books while reading (spoiler: they both have pros and cons, so I don't really have a preference), it was brought to my attention that I totally missed another reading format altogether.

I'm talking about audiobooks.

Now, I didn't neglect to mention them because I consider them somehow inferior to their print & e-book counterparts (I don't). Truth be told, while writing the post, I forgot about audiobooks altogether because I don't listen to them.

I'll admit it's been an extraordinarily long time (years) since I've attempted to listen to an audiobook, but the reason I never really got into it was because I found that I'm too ADD to get the most out of the experience. I tend to daydream while listening, and before I know it, it's been ten minutes and I have no idea what just happened, or how the characters ended up in a new setting, or—how did I get to chapter eighteen?

I do this with TV shows all the time, particularly if I'm multitasking, so I'm well acquainted with the rewind button, but that's besides the point. For me, when I read, I really like to focus on the book—which is what makes reading (versus listening) work so well for me. While I do occasionally catch myself daydreaming while reading (usually a sign that I'm getting bored with the section), it doesn't happen nearly as often as when I am listening to something, regardless of how interesting it is.

The other issue I have with audiobooks is the voice of the narrator—while reading, I develop my own voices for every character in my head (I know I'm not the only one), so occasionally when I hear a book being read aloud, I'll catch myself thinking, "That's not how I imagined that character to sound" or "That character sounds weird" or something that otherwise distracts me from listening to the narration and I start to miss things.

Now. I'd like to clarify that while I've yet to have audiobooks click with me (and I'm certainly not saying they never will!), I don't think by any means that there's anything inherently wrong with them. I understand the advantages to audiobooks—like being able to read (or listen) to a book while driving, or exercising, or a variety of other tasks that would be impossible to do with a print or e-book. I've heard many people say that the main reason they're able to read half as much as they do is because they listen to audiobooks, and I think that's entirely fantastic.

As for now, at least, audiobooks aren't my top choice, but I do intend to try again with the hopes that an audiobook will steal my heart. Books are books, after all.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not? If so, any recommendations?

How to Write Great Analogies

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Let’s play a quick game of choose your favorite. Which of these would you prefer?

Finding x would be like…

...looking for a needle in a haystack. 


...picking out a specific thread from a fifty-foot tapestry. 

How about these?

We’d be sitting ducks out there! 


It’d be like target practice—with our foreheads as bulls-eyes. 

I’m not a gambler, but I’m willing to bet that most of you prefer the second examples to the first, and the reason behind it is pretty simple: the first examples are cliché.

When first drafting analogies, we often tend to use these overused comparisons as a crutch. While writing quickly, it can be considerably more difficult to stop and think of unique analogy, so while first drafting, this isn’t something writers need worry much about.

During the revision process, however, replacing those clichéd analogies with fresh metaphors and similes can make all the difference.

While coming up with fresh analogies isn’t always as easy as we might like, I usually take the same sort of steps while replacing first draft comparisons with new ones:

  1. Figure out what you’re trying to say. This may seem obvious, but this is hugely important. Before you can really start thinking about other ways to say what your cliché conveyed, you have to nail down exactly what you’re trying to say.

  2. Think about your POV character. The best analogies are ones that make sense for your character. If your POV character is a mage in a medieval fantasy, it would make little sense for him to compare raindrops to bullets. Likewise, a 21st century solider is unlikely to make analogies to dragons’ teeth and the smell of sage.

  3. Brainstorm a few possibilities, then choose your favorite. Oftentimes, the first idea you come up with is not your best (that’s why you’re replacing the cliché to begin with). Dig a little deeper and brainstorm until you come up with the image that best hits the idea you’re trying to convey and fits your character. Once you’ve found one that meets both criteria, you know you’re on the right track. 

What tips do you have for writing great analogies? Do you have any examples of particularly interesting ones you’d like to share? 

Discussion: What's Your Favorite Word Processing Program?

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I am writing this post in Pages. This is normal for me, as I transitioned from writing posts in Word to writing posts in Pages sometime last fall. At the time it was mostly out of necessity—my new computer didn’t have Word and it was less expensive to buy Pages than to buy the whole of Microsoft Office.

After I was gifted with a copy of Office, however, I’d expected that I’d go back to my Word-using days and that would be the end of it.

Except it wasn’t.

I can’t fully explain why I still use Pages to write my blog posts. I tried switching back to Word, but it felt weird—the format was different, the posts looked different and I found I was more comfortable writing my posts in Pages, as I’d become accustomed to. However, while Pages has become my blog post writing go-to software, I don’t use it for novel writing or editing.

I’ve written a post on why Scrivener is awesome in the past, so I won’t reiterate the whole thing, but basically I’ve found that Scrivener is my favorite software for first draft writing and major plot structure changes, largely because of the cork board and daily writing goal features. As I start to get into critiques and more detailed edits, however, I switch over to Word.

Maybe there’s a commenting feature in Scrivener and I just haven’t found it, but Word is a pretty universal program and I have yet to find software to beat it’s commenting system. I love that I can color code my comments by CP and perhaps the habit-forming part of me doesn’t want to let go of Word after using it for years as my novel-writing software. I still translate all of my changes back to Scrivener (copy and paste is a beautiful thing), but for final edits, at least so far, I like to use Word.

So I’m weird and I switch around between Pages, Scrivener and Word, but now I want to hear from you: what word processing programs do you use, and which is your favorite? 

How to Write Multiple POVs

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Quite a while ago, I wrote a post on why you might consider using multiple POVs in your WIP, but it
occurred to me that I never followed it up with a post covering the how.

A general rule of thumb I follow is to tell the story in as few POVs as possible. If you can tell the full story of your novel in a single POV, then there’s no reason to add a second or third POV (remember: nothing in your novel should be unnecessary). If, on the other hand, you need more than one POV to fully tell your story, then multiple POVs are certainly something you’ll need to consider.

Once you’ve decided that using multiple POVs is the right choice for your novel, and you’ve chosen your POV characters, the most important step is your first step: getting to know your characters.

The process is no different from getting to know your protagonist in a single POV novel, except that you’ll repeat the process with every one of your POV characters. Depending on what your first draft process is like, you can hypothetically leave a couple questions unanswered when jumping into your first draft, but by the time you’ve churned out your final draft you should know each of your POV characters equally well.

The reason this is so crucially important for multiple POV novels, is that if you don’t know one character as well as the other, rather than reading distinct voices, all of the characters start to sound like the one you know the best.

In order for a multiple POV novel to work, every POV must have his or her own distinctive voice. A reader should be able to open up a chapter, read a couple lines and figure out what character they’re reading with relative ease. If the voices start to blend together and mirror each other, you know it’s time to sit down and really get to know your characters.

One thing that has helped me with multi-POV problems is to sit down and differentiate what makes your POV characters different. I’ve found that making a list of these differences—ideological differences, varied fears and dreams, and particularly how they speak and think differently—helped me to narrow down a specific voice and focus for each POV character.

When done correctly, multiple POVs can add an extra interesting element to your WIP. The key is just to take enough time to do it effectively.

Have you ever written multiple POVs? If so, what was your experience like? If not, have you read any multi-POV novels that stuck with you?  

Writers and Bad Behavior

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If you follow literary agents on Twitter, or even connect with a good amount of writers online, then
chances are you’ve heard about poor behavior from other anonymous writers. 

I’ve been on Twitter for nearly two years now, and I’ve heard stories that fit all over the “horrific idea” spectrum—stories that I often didn’t want to believe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen agents and other publishing professionals tweet about things writers have done or said to them that have made me cringe. 

Then, a few nights ago agent Jessica Negrón said this:
How you behave—both on the streets and online matters. If you’re an unagented writer and you’re looking for an agent to fall in love with your book, then you are searching for representation. Someone to represent your book, yes, but also by extension represent you. 

And no self-respecting agent wants to represent poor writer behavior. 

Even if you’re not searching for representation, bad behavior can impact your sales, as well. I can guarantee that writers who respond to negative reviews with scathing tantrums won’t get very many reviews, and will certainly turn away readers who look at the reviews before buying and come across your online hissy fit. 

The point is this: if you’re serious about your career as a writer, then you need to compose yourself professionally. In other words: 

If you feel the need to respond to a rejection in a manner that makes the agent feel as hurt and angry as you are in the moment—don’t. 

If you get the urge to bash other writers for any reason whatsoever—don’t. 

If you feel the need to talk about how your work is superior to others in your genre—don’t. 

If you feel the need to be anything other than perfectly respectful to your peers, to publishing professionals, to people in general—get off the computer and vent. Just don’t do it online. 

What do you think about bad online behavior (from writers or otherwise)? Have you ever witnessed an online incident? 

Twitter for Writers: Are You Following These Accounts?

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If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts, then chances are you’re well aware that I am a proud
Twitter junkie. 

When I first started using Twitter nearly two years ago I’ll admit I found the site a little intimidating. There were all these new terms and strange rules and the more people I followed, the faster my timeline flew by and I wondered if this Twitter thing was a such a good idea, after all. 

It was a good idea. No, it was a great idea. 

Over the course of two years, I have become acquainted with more writers and bloggers than I had throughout the course of my journey as a writer for years before that. I’ve talked to some of my favorite writers, been retweeted by agents, entered contests and met some incredibly talented people. 

It’s easy to get lost in the Twittersphere, but to make life a little easier, I thought I’d put together some of my favorite Twitter follows for writers. 

So without further ado, here are some fantastic Twitter accounts for writers to follow: 

Resources. These Twitter uses are chock full of excellent tips, blog posts and helpful sites geared specifically for writers. 

Humor. Because we writers have a weird sense of humor sometimes, but there are people out there who understand what we find funny. 

  • Waterstones Oxford St (@WstonesOxfordSt)
  • Tahereh Mafi (@TaherehMafi)
  • Nathan Bransford (@NathanBransford)
Contests. Remember those pitch contests I’ve been raving about as of late? These four awesome accounts frequently host contests and tell you all about it on Twitter. Must-follows for writers who are interested in contests. 

Literary Agents on Twitter. I’ve said it before, but following agents on Twitter is never a bad idea. They post great tips, and often run insightful blogs. I have a list of agents on Twitter. A list that I am updating as I go. But it’s a start. 

These are some of my top follows on Twitter. Who are your favorite writing-related Twitter accounts? 

Query Tip: Do Your Research

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Most writers are well aware that writing successful query letters is no easy task. We gripe and groan about them nearly as often as we do about synopses writing (which is another bucket of glitter and sunshine). Pile the added pressure of knowing that the query letter is the first (and sometimes last) impression publishing professionals have of your book, and it's no wonder that query letter writing is every writers favorite (*cough*) task.

While I've already written about ways (not) to write the best query letter in existence, I'd like to talk about a hugely important part of the querying process that gets overlooked far more than it should; that is, the research.

I follow quite a few agents on Twitter and I'm always surprised by the amount of times I see them talking about query letters they receive for genres they don't represent, or queries that blatantly disregard their guidelines. It seems obvious, but those are mistakes that writers frequently make simply because they failed to do their research.

In a way I understand—for the new writer who has never traversed the parts of the internet that make agent and editor research easy, it can be a little daunting. So to help to amend that, I've put together a list of my top five favorite go-to places for agent research all nice and easy for you to find:

  1. Literary Rambles. Run by the fantastic Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre, Literary Rambles is the first place I check when researching agents. They have a huge database of spotlighted literary agents that is frequently updated, and every spotlight is chock full of information—a bio, likes, dislikes, quotes, links to interviews, clients, sales, submission guidelines and query tips. For an example of this fabulousness, check out agent Sarah LaPolla's spotlight

  2. AgentQuery. What I really like about AgentQuery is the ability to search their literary agent database by genre. If you use their full search feature (recommended), you can tailor your search by keywords, multiple genres (fiction and non-fiction) and filter it by whether or not the agent accepts e-mail queries, is a member of AAR, and is actively seeking clients. AgentQuery really takes the hard work out of finding agents for your genre. 

  3. Predators & Editors. This site is a must when researching. Predators & Editors has an enormous list of agents and editors, both legitimate and not. They'll let you know if the agency you're looking into has sales or if you should be wary of them. There are a lot of scammers out there, as well as well-intentioned but entirely inexperienced people out there. Be careful and make sure the agency or publishing house you're looking into is legitimate before you submit your query. 

  4. Absolute Write Water Cooler. What I really like about Absolute Write is that while the other sites provide a neutral, objective profile of the agents, Absolute Write has an agent forum where writers share their personal experiences. Everything from submission times, to responses, to happy news is discussed on the boards as well as not-so happy warnings and bewares. Absolute Write is yet another fantastic place to check before you hit send, and the agent and publishers index is a great place to start. 

  5. Twitter. I know Twitter doesn't sound like a helpful research stop, but you would be surprised what agents tweet about. I've seen a fair share about agent tastes, current wish lists, query tips and faux pas on Twitter alone. For those who are interested, I have a running Twitter list of agents (currently 128 members and growing) that makes it easy follow some fantastic publishing pros. 

Regardless of what you use, make sure you take the time to do your research before you start to write your query letters. Not only will it save you time, but you'll learn quite a bit about agent preferences and the pulse of the industry.

So those are my top five to-go research places, but now I want to hear from you. Where do you go to do your agent research?
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