Category: Writing advice (Page 1 of 2)

February Critique Giveaway

Now that my January giveaway has concluded — my February critique giveaway is live!

For Feb, I’m giving away:

  1. Query + 10 page critique
  2. Query + 5 page critique
  3. Query critique

If you are self-pubbing and do not have a query, I would be happy to critique your blurb instead of a query!

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my newsletter for NEXT GIRL TO DIE!

Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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January Query Critique Giveaway

In 2017, it was my goal to spend the entire year giving back to the writing community. And I enjoyed it so much, I’m going to continue doing it in 2018. Each month I will post a new critique giveaway of some sort on my blog.

For January, I’m giving away FIVE query critiques — YEP 5!

There are no restrictions on who can claim this prize, all genres and markets are open.  (I’d be the most help for A or YA projects though)

Note: To be eligible to win, you must follow me on Twitter at the time of the drawing.

While you’re here, please subscribe to my newsletter for NEXT GIRL TO DIE!

Good luck! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Products I use for writing

Occasionally I have other writers ask me how I write, and what products I use to make writing and editing easier for myself. I figured instead of just tweeting links constantly, putting them all in one place would be the easiest thing. I will try to keep this page updated so as I stumble on more things I like, I’ll add them.

Editing/Writing Binder

I write all of my manuscripts by hand, I also do most of my editing on paper. This is just the easiest process for me – but I understand if it’s not a good process for you, I’m not here to convince anyone. But if you’re looking for a binder to help keep your writing life together, I have found this one to be AMAZING.

Once I print out my manuscript, I use a standard 3-hole punch and then put all the pages into the binder.

Word of warning, it’s large. There are smaller versions, but I like lugging this behemoth around. There are smaller options available on Amazon.

Here’s a link to the binder on Amazon.

This thing has pockets and folder tabs galore. It can easily hold a 400 page manuscript. It might be able to go up to 500-600 pages, but I’ve never had a manuscript that length so I can’t attest to it personally.

It also has a shoulder strap.

I love this thing because I’m able to keep all my notes, pens, notebooks, etc. all in one place while I’m editing.

I also have a smaller version of this binder that I use for writing. This is the same brand as the binder above, but it’s not quite as bulky. I usually just have a 5-subject notebook in this and an assortment of gel pens.


I’m a notebook snob. I’ve accepted this part of myself. My husband thinks I’m completely insane because of this. But I swear, some paper really feels different as you write on it. Some paper feels like it offers resistance against the pen, and I hate that. These notebooks I’ve found offer no resistance when I use my gel pens, and I get very little smearing.

Here’s a link to these notebooks on Amazon.

I usually buy these in bulk about a month after school starts, and they’re all marked down like crazy on clearance. I find that one 5-subject notebook is perfect for my outlining, notes, and hand-written pages for a project.

Gel pens

I’m obsessed with gel pens. At all times I’ve probably got around two hundred in my house. I’ve seen complaints about gel pens drying up if they sit for too long without being used. But I’ve gotta tell you, in the four years I’ve been using them, I’ve probably had two or three total dry up. It doesn’t appear to be a common problem.

My only complaint about most gel pen assortments, is that there are SO MANY neon and pastel colors. I can’t write with those on standard notebooks, so I have an over-flowing bin filled with all these cast-off colors. That being said, being able to write with glitter or metallic gel pens makes it all worth it.

Here are some of my favorite sets:

This set has 100 pens and 100 refills. I do find that the point on these varies sometimes, but I’m not a stickler for that. This set also has a lot less of the pastel and neon colors than the other options do.

This wasn’t my favorite set, but it got the job done. I wasn’t crazy about it because I felt it had more neon/pastel than others.

This is a much cheaper set than the others, and I had pretty good luck with it. Not my favorite though.


I no longer use a booklight, since I have an office now. But for the past five years, most of the time I wrote my manuscript by booklight. I’ve had several I hated, this is the light I’ve had the best luck with.

Small notebooks

I always keep a small notebook in my purse, as I usually get ideas for my novels while I’m in the car, or waiting in line somewhere. These are the notebooks I like best on the go.

Books I use

During my writing and editing processes there are a few books that I use as tools. Here’s a short list of the ones I use most often.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers is a great book to help you edit your own work before self-publishing or querying. I will say that you should still have betas and critique partners read your work before sending it out, but this book should give you the confidence to get your writing in a good place before sending it out to your readers.

Rules for Writers is another great book that can help with grammar, editing, citing sources, abbreviations, etc. Most questions you’ll have in writing should be covered in this book.

And all the writing thesauruses are invaluable. If you don’t have them already, buy them all RIGHT NOW.

The emotional thesaurus. This has helped me many times as I have issues with writing emotions and body language. If you need help in these areas as you’re writing, be sure to pick it up!

Need to come up with some flaws for your characters or some negative traits? Drawing a blank? The negative trait thesaurus exists for exactly that!

On the flip side, if you need positive traits there’s a thesaurus for that as well.

There are also a few other books in the writing thesaurus line, The Urban Setting Thesaurus, The Rural Setting Thesaurus, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus. I have never used any of these, so I cannot vouch for them personally, but I’m sure they’re just as helpful as the others!

I think that covers all of the products I typically use for my writing. I don’t really use highlighters, or other office supplies. But if you think I missed anything, tweet at me and I’ll update the list! ?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy things, I might get a cut of the purchase so I can buy more gel pens. Please help fund my addiction :p

Dea Answers Your Query Questions!

When is it okay to start querying a new project? Do you need to wait for all the stragglers to come back with rejections or can I simply wait out the typical 6-8 week window and move on?

In my opinion, if you decide it’s time to shift gears and query another project, you should look at that strategically. Ideally, when sending your queries out, you aren’t querying EVERY agent at once. Likely you’re sending out small batches of queries. (If you aren’t sending out small batches of queries, please reconsider. Sending out large batches won’t allow you to change your query, or adjust your work easily based on feedback).

So, if you are sending out these small batches of queries — I would send to the agents that you haven’t queried in the longest period of time, then move down your list from there.

BIG NOTE HERE, I am not an agent. This is my thought based on my own querying experience (and what I’ve seen some agents mention in interviews). I think it’s safe to query a new project to agents you’ve already queried if you’ve given at least 6 weeks in between projects. You don’t need everyone to say no to your previous project before moving on. (There will be some agents who will never reply)

Some agents may have given interviews where they specifically say how often is too often to query new projects — so if you’re really concerned, I’d look at agent interviews for details.

Have a question about querying, writing, or how much I love Godzilla, that you want me to answer on my blog? DM your questions to me on twitter!

Guest Post from Jen DeLuca – Three Things I Learned While Writing “Hunted and Haunted” for Rough Edges

Three Things I Learned While Writing “Hunted and Haunted” for Rough Edges

  1. You Can’t Deny Your Muse. I saw the submission call for Rough Edges here and there on Twitter, and my initial reaction was “Huh, cool.” Cowboys have never really been my thing—I tend to go for regular contemporary romance, maybe some paranormal here and there. So I went back to editing my novel and didn’t think much about it. But when I wasn’t looking, my brain started wondering “what if…?” If I were to write a cowboy story (WHICH I’M NOT), what kind of cowboy story would it be? I thought about a recent trip out West, all that wide open space. I like ghost stories, what if I wrote something with a ghost in it? (No, brain, we’re not writing a story right now.) A week before the submission deadline, the story that had been simmering in the back of my mind suddenly bubbled over, fully formed, demanding my attention.  No, I told it. I don’t have time for you. Turns out, though, that when you have an idea take hold like that, you can’t tell it no. Which leads me to…
  2. There’s No Minute Like the Last Minute! Did I mention that it was a week before the submission deadline, and I hadn’t written a word? I’m a notoriously slow writer, so I spent a precious few days trying to talk myself out of it. I don’t have time, I don’t write fast enough, etc. But as I said above, you can’t deny the muse. So I took a deep breath and dove in. I wrote before work. I wrote through my lunch break. I slipped a legal pad under the work on my desk, scribbling down dialogue and other phrases. I wrote at home after dinner and before bed. And a little more than 36 hours later, I had a story. I let it sit overnight, emailed it to my CP to make sure it wasn’t terrible (I was so bleary-eyed from writing so fast that I couldn’t tell!), made a few small tweaks, and that was that!
  3. Breaks Are Important. The last writing session for “Hunted and Haunted” during those 36 hours started around 7 p.m. on a Friday night at a downtown coffeehouse. A couple hours, a couple lattes, and an apple crumble a la mode later, I went home, made some more coffee, and kept on writing. I finished around 2 a.m. and collapsed in bed. And that’s when I realized that I couldn’t feel my legs. They felt kind of weird and tingly. I spent a few panicked seconds wondering if I should go to the emergency room before doing the math and realizing that I hadn’t moved from my chair in roughly 5 hours.

Don’t do that, y’all. Get up and walk around every so often while you’re writing. Don’t be like Jen.

A key witness in her ex’s corruption trial, Anna needs to lay low for her own safety. While she’s stashed in a remote hunting cabin in Montana, her nightly erotic dreams make her wish that sheriff’s deputy Gabe McKenna’s protective custody was a little more hands-on. Then she learns about the ghost who shares the cabin with them and discovers it’ll take both men to keep her safe… and satisfied.


Twitter: @jaydee_ell


Rough Edges Cover

Get your copy of Rough Edges at:

Official page:


All Romance eBooks:




Query Tips

I have some tips, that will hopefully give you some ideas on what to look for in your own queries!

Going through all of these queries at once let me see a trend in errors. So, if you’re looking to polish your query up, here are some of the things I noticed:

We need the age of your MC
If you’re writing YA, or MG, we need the age of your MC in the query. There’s no reason to leave it out. Add it in, preferably in the first paragraph.

Your query should be about your book
Your query should be more about your book, than about you. While some agents like to see a short paragraph about the writer, that paragraph should not be longer than the rest of the query.

Show, don’t tell
Don’t give a one sentence overview of your book and expect that to cut it. Show us what your book is about in your query. Try to give at least three paragraphs that are a general overview of your plot.

Too much backstory
Save backstory for your manuscript. Your query doesn’t need 2 full paragraphs of backstory.

Too many character names
Limit yourself to mentioning two character names in your query. If you list more characters than that, the query can become confusing.

A query is not a list of events
Make sure that your query tells me a few things: Who your character is, what they’re up against, and what the stakes are. A bulleted list of events won’t cut it for an agent.

Limit your comps
If you’re going to use comps (which is optional) limit yourself to two or three.

A common tip if you’re stuck with your query, is to look at the jacket copy from other novels. I also have some other query tips here.

Have questions about your query, or any of the tips I mentioned in my post? Feel free to ask them below!

Sending Email Campaigns and Newsletters for your Blog

I’m cross posting this to my email marketing blog, as I know many of the writers who frequent my writing blog, have blogs of their own. If you’re looking for a guide to get started sending email campaigns or newsletters for your blog, I’ve written one, and you can check it out here!

Querying Part 2: Building a Query – The Formula

While doing query critiques, I’ve noticed a bit of a theme — backstory. Because you’re so limited on space in a query, it’s important that every word you use is absolutely essential. If you’re including that your character broke their arm last summer, it needs to be clear why. Why is that important to the story? Why do I need to know that NOW, and not in the first chapter?

Your pages are for backstory

Your pages should cover all the backstory necessary for your character. Your query’s job is to explain your plot, and give the Agent or Publisher a hint at who your character is. If you have backstory in your query, chances are, you can cut it out, and no one will miss it.

So, what do I put in my query?

There’s an easy formula for deciding what belongs in your query.

Character + Conflict + Stakes.

That’s it. Character. Conflict. Stakes. That should give the agent a pretty good idea of what your story is about. Need more to go on than that?

Be sure that you answer these questions:

Who is your character? If you’re writing YA or MG, be sure to put in the age of the character.

What or who is your character up against? Why are they up against that person/thing? Why is it only they who can solve/fix it?

And finally, what happens if they don’t succeed? Does the world end? Do they die? Do they lose someone they love? The final sentence should sum up the stakes. Tell the reader why they should care.

If you can, include a great hook.

Additional information for your query

Be sure to include the word count of the MS. The genre(s) that your book fits in. (Be sure these are real existing genres, and not a genre you’re making up). And audience. Is your book YA, MG, Adult? The Agent will need to know the market.

About you

You don’t need to include that this is your first novel. DON’T say that you ‘completed your MS recently’, as it looks like you may not have edited it. You don’t need to include publishing history, if you don’t have one. And, more importantly, you don’t have to include any information about yourself if you don’t want to.

Need more query tips? My CP has some great tips on her blog!

When to Give Up

Today, I’m going to talk about something difficult. Giving up. Not giving up on writing all together mind you. But giving up on a story, or a character.

Last year, I started seven projects. Three of those, I competed. Those three completed projects, I outlined, researched, interviewed experts, wrote, edited. And they’re going on the shelf — the shelf of projects that will likely never see the light of day.

That’s right. I wrote over 150,000 words for those projects, and I’m putting them on the shelf.

Why? Because I don’t love them. I don’t even like them.

Are the stories okay? Probably.

Are the characters fine? Yeah.

So why am I giving up on them? Because I don’t feel connected to them. I don’t feel like they’re stories that currently need to be told. They’re fodder, filler. They helped me grow in some areas that I need to, namely romance. But would I want to stamp my name on these and put them out in the world for all to see? Nope.

There might be a time I’ll change my mind, in six months, a year, five years. But for now, I’m giving up. And that’s okay.

I’ve realized that I’m happier, and better off writing fantasy and horror. The other projects don’t have a single speculative word in them. And that’s just not me, not right now anyway.

If you ever feel like you’re being dragged down by your story, if you feel like you aren’t doing it justice — put it away. Write something else. Read something else. When you’re ready, that story will still be there. And maybe that will be the right time to make it perfect. But if today isn’t that day, there are many other stories you can write.

Querying Part One – Writing a Good Hook

Querying: Part One – The Hook

I was going to do a single post on querying, then realized that would end up being a novella. Instead, I’m going to write several posts on querying, focusing on what I consider to be the most important parts. I will be using examples from an old shelved project of mine.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the hook. What is the hook? The hook should be the opener of your query, a very short, snappy line or two that draw an agent in.

Here’s what a bad hook looks like (this was from the VERY FIRST draft of one of my old projects):

You would think that being deemed the Anti-Christ by a rogue cult would be as bad as your life could get. But after Daisy fell in love with a boy who only has a month to live, and then is arrested for her mother’s murder, she realized her life was about to get a whole lot worse.

I cringe now when I read this.

At the time,  I thought this was genius. I didn’t understand what a hook was, or how to write one.  This query did get quite a few requests, so it took me a long time to realize there was anything wrong with it. But eventually after reading every blog in existence on the querying process, I recognized my error.

Here’s the final hook I used in queries:

17-year-old Daisy Fitzpatrick has doled out more death sentences than the Texas Prison system. And it’s going to get her killed.

See the difference? I’m not trying to stuff everything that happens in the story into a paragraph, that’s what the rest of the query is for. While this isn’t the best hook in the world, it did get a lot of attention.


Great — But how the hell do I write a hook?

To write a good hook, drill down to the absolute barebones of your story.  A good way to do this is to force yourself to write a Twitter Pitch. With 140 characters you HAVE to rely on the essentials. In those 140 characters, what does a reader need to know?

Cut your story down to two or three elements that set your story apart. What makes it special? What are the stakes? Why should someone read it?

This is the formula I’ve seen before: [Character] + [Conflict] + [Stakes]  = A great hook.

Need some more examples? Agent query has some listed here.

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