Encouragement, Writing

Seven of Many Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject Your MS

Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject MS (iWriterly)

In my neverending quest to move my manuscript (MS) to a literary agent and onto publication, I read info from a few ‘writerly’ resources. One of these stores of knowledge comes from Meg La Torre of iWriterly YouTube videos. I love that she gets to the point, the videos are brief but cover the subject, and she puts out new info every week.

One of the latest videos features seven lit agents who give their top three reasons why they reject manuscripts. Now, a few of the items are what we writers often hear: show don’t tell, character voice, and info dumps, but this latest video (December 4, 2019) gives us many more points.

The following are a few screenshots of the video:

The first page means the first 250 words
  1. Strong first page. Here are some criteria developed over at Flogging the Quill:

    A First-page Checklist

    • It begins to engage the reader with the character
    • Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
    • The character desires something.
    • The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
    • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
    • (Go to the site for more)
  1.  Editorial Vision

Does the Lit Agent have the Editorial Vision

This area also includes editing issues: too many problems with pacing, issues with point of view, talking heads, or amateur writing.

 3. Expectations. Did the writer deliver on the query representation?

Your query highlighted specific goals, stakes, or story, but your first ten pages don’t reflect your representation. This may be a problem of not starting in the right place, a slow pace, or an info dump instead of starting in the now.

4. Is Your Story Idea Unique Enough?

Is Your MS unique, fresh?

What distinguishes your novel from the hundreds of other fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novels out in the bookstores. Is your book told in a fresh way? What makes it new and exciting in an oversaturated genre? Remember, the agent has to ‘sell’ your MS to an editor and team.

5. Problematic Content. Harmful stereotypes, offensive representation.

Problematic Representation

If this area isn’t clear to you, perhaps you can read about the need for a sensitivity reader.  The person should be able to spot cultural inaccuracies, stereotypes, bias issues, or problematic language. This doesn’t cover only ethnicities, but areas of gender, abilities, etc.

In my writing group of seven women (a diverse group of Anglo, Latinx, bi-racial, and multi-ethnic), we spot problem areas and learn from each other, including having a sensitivity reader if we believe this will improve the MS.

   6.  Plot and Character Arcs

This can be anything from a lack of change in the character, plot holes, inconsistencies in the timeline, or jumping around too much in the storyline. Does your novel have enough conflict, does the conflict raise the stakes in the story, does the character act and react through the story, so we know what she’s thinking or why she’s taking action. Do we care?

7. World Building

Building the world begins on the first page. This is difficult because you don’t want to dump a whole lot of info but enough to provide context to the reader. The setting allows your reader to visualize the environment and characters better. This is a critical area for fantasy, speculative, sci-fi writers who must construct an imaginary world.

To learn more about the reasons, lit agents reject an MS, watch the presentation. If you click the “Show More” beneath the video on the iWriterly YouTube page, you will see a list of the participating agents and links to their agencies and social media.

Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful for any of my blog followers who are writers. Keep on writing!

Self Care

December Self-Care for your Sanity

 

Of all the months, December is the least likely for us to relax. There are a hundred things to buy, make, bake, send, or attend but remember, we don’t have to make room for everything.

Instead, make enough space for yourself, your loved ones, and those who could use a little lift.

There are 24 days ahead of us until Christmas–time enough to set a few priorities and boundaries, so we’re not cranky or stressed out.

Pay attention to your body. If you’re too tired, too anxious, too hungry, take care of yourself before you do anything else.

This year I’ve chosen to focus on six areas:

1-Christmas decorations

Decorating the house and tree are NOT my forté. I’ll carry the boxes, put together the tree, and help unpack the items, but the interior design award in our house belongs to my daughter. And I don’t feel guilty.

ornament memories

We have fun reminiscing about the ornaments (Baby’s 1st Christmas ’89), the ones from our travels, the homemade ones, and the decorations that need to retire. Our cat, Heidi, is always in the mix, chasing glitter boxes or sneaking under the tree.

Cedar balsam, cinnamon apple, and cranberry candles are my favorite scents to have around the house. Live decor like Trader Joe’s pine wreaths and Poinsettias bring a little bit of nature into the home.

2. Create a relaxing music playlist or watch a couple of classic holiday movies:

We listen to the oldie Christmas songs: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Judy Garland when we’re home. Make yourself a list of whatever mellows you out or watch a movie that makes you laugh. My favorite: A Christmas Story (I never tire of Ralphie).

3. Give Christmas to someone else. Participate in a service project in your community or church:

Toys for Tots Campaign

Our church organizes a toy/clothing drive for infants to 16 yrs. old. The Fire Department has the Spark Of Love drive, the Marines Toys for Tots, and many places have the Angel Tree which gives gifts to kids through Prison Ministry. Here’s a list of a few more charities.

A service project doesn’t have to cost money, but time. Volunteer a couple of hours at a hospital, rescue mission, convalescent home, or homeless shelter.

4. Find joy in a peaceful morning at least once per workweek. Okay, you might need to wake up ten minutes earlier, but it’ll be worth it. Make a cup of coffee or tea, sit in your favorite place, warm your hands, and enjoy your drink in quiet solitude (no social media). A ten-minute break can occur at lunchtime or in the evening.

5. Mail a real Christmas card, or two, to an old friend, your parent(s), or someone special. Write a greeting and send the card off before Christmas Eve.

6. Keep a tradition or make a new memory.

Masa harina and chile colorado for Tamales

For our family, Christmas wouldn’t be merry without making tamales. I’ve written a few posts about making tamales of meat, sweet ones, and vegan ones. This is a group effort and gives us time together. You could do the same by baking cookies or buying refrigerated sugar cookies and decorating them with sprinkles.

These are a few tips that I hope will give you something to think about. Put your focus where you want to and start off the month in stride. Only do what you can reasonably do, and don’t guilt yourself or should all over yourself.

Take good care of yourself this month and remember to breathe.

 

 

 

Writing

How an Instagram Challenge Improved My Writing Life

The battle proved long but victorious.

She Writes Press came up with a challenge for writers at the end of April and I thought, ‘why not.’ This seemed to be an easy way to post on social media and see what other people experienced in their writing life.

Scanning my feed on Instagram is quick because I don’t follow a bunch of people, after weeding out those men who post 101 selfie pics. Some guys use Instagram and FaceBook like online dating sites. Not interested.

But back to the topic and the 31-Day Challenge:

WhySheWrites Challenge

The questions lent themselves to introspection, figuring out how to show an answer, and exposing some of the more challenging parts of the writing life.

Here are a few of my Instagram responses.

Share the reason you write:

Growing up, I didn’t read any books with Latina characters who reflected my experiences until I was in college. Those books were few and far between, written mostly by men.

So when I began recording my words (about ten years ago), I found myself writing about loss, abandonment, and other challenges encountered by women and girls to amplify their strength and resilience. In doing so, I increased my own.

 

Why I write? alvaradofrazier.com

Share a photo of your writing space:

My grand-kitty Heidi Ho lets me know when she thinks I’m staying too long at my laptop. She has a routine: jump on my chair, leap to my desk, and if I’m still typing she wedges herself behind my computer where she glares and meows until I shut it and pay attention to her; which means taking her outside in the garden to stalk lizards.

She helps me balance my writing day.

 

Share your writing space.

 

What is the first/worse job you’ve ever had:

My first job and my worse job involve strawberries. I grew up in and live in the strawberry capital of the nation. Mom made us work in the strawberry fields, para que sepas (so you’ll know). We had accompanied her on weekends to pick walnuts before but picking strawberries at age 11 or 12 was harder. Walnut trees had shade. The strawberry fields went on forever, the heat blasting your back, the hot dirt. I lasted two days.

My worse job was working in the strawberry packing house on the graveyard shift the summer before college. I was not well treated by older women. As far as they were concerned, I took a job away from a mother, but that was the only decent paying two-month job I could find at seventeen.

I sorted strawberries on a conveyor belt while standing for eight hours. The cold water running through the belt splashed with each rotten or damaged strawberry I flicked into the dirty reservoir. The best fruit went to Japan, and the rest were sorted by better, good, average, and jam.

Overhead fluorescent lights beamed down, making the warehouse seem otherworldly at three in the morning. Strawberry and dirt odors lingered on my body the entire day and in my sleep.

What is your first and your worse job?

 

Women writers who inspire you:

There are so many, so I listed the ones who authored the books I buy/borrow. Usually, I have three or more books written by the same author.

 

Share one line from your own writing:

She was sober enough to remember that liquor and men were a bad combination, but drunk enough to think she could drive.

I’m glad I took the challenge, and in the process, I found out more about my own writing life and what informs my writing.

Finding several like-minded people, who run the spectrum of age, life experience, and writing backgrounds, was a plus and illustrated how the ‘social’ in social media work.

Over on the right hand column I list my Instagram and Twitter account links if you’d like to visit my sites or follow me so I can follow you.

Thanks for reading.

César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969
Cesar Chavez Day, Social Justice

Why César Chávez Day Needs to be Remembered

César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969
César Chávez on the cover of Time Magazine 1969

César Chávez was an Arizonian, WWII Veteran, a father, husband, organizer, and a leader.

Chávez’ legacy as a leader among farm workers’ unions is honored on March 31st, on what would have been his 92nd birthday.

On this day, the UFW martyrs also need to be remembered. These were men and women from Yemen, Mexico, and the United States. They were Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant.

The Spanish phrase: “Si Se Puede” (Yes, You Can), coined by Dolores Huerta, became the rallying cry for César Chávez during a 1972 fast in which the Mexican-American farm worker rights advocate protested a signed Arizona bill that denied farm workers the right to strike and boycott during harvest seasons.

From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.-

César Chávez

In 2012 former Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis hosted the Induction of the Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement into the Labor Hall of Honor and the naming of the César E. Chávez Memorial Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to César Chávez and the UFW the actions led to these accomplishments:

  • The abolishment of the short-handled hoe that crippled generations of farm workers.
  • Unemployment, disability and workers’ compensation benefits for farm workers;
  •  Establishment of labor contracts with employers that require rest periods,
  •  Toilets in the fields.
  •  Clean drinking water, hand washing facilities,
  •  Protective clothing against pesticide exposure.
  •  Banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the fields.
  •  Outlawing DDT and other dangerous pesticides.
  •  Eliminating farm labor contractors and guaranteeing farm workers seniority rights and job security.
  •  Creation of a pension plan for retired farm workers; a credit union.
  •  and comprehensive union health benefits for farmworkers and their families.

Not many people know of the men and women who participated in and fought for the establishment of the UFW. They were inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame:

Nan Freeman: an 18-year old college freshman from Wakefield, Massachusetts who gave her life while picketing with striking farm workers in central Florida in the middle of the night because of her love for justice. In Cesar’s words, Nan was Kadosha in the Hebrew tradition, a “holy person” to be forever honored.

Rufino Contreras: a 27-year-old husband, father of two and a dedicated union activist who was shot to death in the Imperial Valley lettuce field for demanding a more just share of what he himself produced during the 1979 vegetable industry strike

Nagi Daifallah: a young Muslim immigrant from South Yemen who was killed during the 1973 grape strike after he gave himself completely to the union to escape the trap of powerlessness. Nagi immigrated to this country to escape poverty, only to rediscover it in California’s rich fields and vineyards. He learned English, could communicate well, served as a translator for UFW organizers and became active with the union.

Juan De La Cruz: a 60-year old immigrant from Mexico, a gentleman who knew firsthand the benefits of a UFW contract. He was also a grape striker and an original union member recruited by Cesar in the early ‘60s. Juan died two days after Nagi’s killing when shots rang out on a vineyard picket line and Juan shielded his wife, Maximina, with his body.

Rene Lopez was only 21 when he came home and proudly told his mother, “Here is my first union card. Now I am important. Now I am a man.” A short time later, grower goons gunned Rene down just after he voted in a union election at Sikkema Dairy near Fresno, which he and his co-workers were striking. Rene was young, but, as Cesar observed, “he had already felt the call to social justice.”

César Chávez has a special connection to my county, Ventura, because he lived in Oxnard as a child and returned as an adult to organize protests and boycotts to secure better wages and working conditions for farm workers.

My mom marched until the age of 89 yrs.

Chavez march oxnard
Mom at C.C March, Oxnard 2016

Here are some old posts: Remembering Cesar Chavez and My Mother

A March Down Memory Lane

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.

I hope you commemorate the day with serving others, doing random acts of kindness, or teaching others about Chávez’ legacy.