I’ve reached 30 writing tips so I’m reposting. Please feel free to share any new tips in the comments & if I’ll add w/your name.

Keys to the Universe


Writing tip #35: Does each of your scenes advance the plot, develop the character(s), illustrate your theme or help contribute to suspense? How can you make it do double or triple duty?

Writing tip #34: Even when you’re not feeling the muse, get something on page EVERYDAY.

Writing tip #33: Do you know what your beloved character just would not do? What happens when she does it?

Writing Tip # 32: It isn’t what you, the writer. wants to tell your readers (all that juicy backstory and details floating through your head)….IT’S what the character desperately wants the reader to know.

Writing tip 31: If you are not happy with a scene, figure out why. Does it drive the story forward and/or deepen the character?

Writing tip #30: Be on intimate footing with the elements which create the heart of your story for this is your ‘Throughline’ and it shall…

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Interview with Emily Gref

Emily Gref

I very much enjoyed interviewing agent Emily Gref from the Lowenstein Association. She is one of the VIPs for this weekend’s GLVWG’s Write Stuff Conference and I would have to say this is indeed a well-rounded personality. . http://glvwgwritersconference.blogspot.com/2013/03/interview-with-emily-gref.html

Interview with Emily Gref
by Tammy Burke

Emily Gref is an Associate Agent at Lowenstein Associates, as well as their foreign rights manager. Prior to Lowenstein Associates, she interned with the Donald Maass Literar Agency, Serendipity Literary Agency, Arthur A. Levine Books, Tor Books, and Penguin Young Readers.

GLVWG member Tammy Burke contacted Emily to ask her a few questions about being an agent and about the types of books she’s interested in acquiring.

Tammy: Do you recall what first prompted you to become more involved in the craft of writing and reading? Was becoming an agent a natural conclusion?

Emily: Like most people in publishing, I grew up a voracious lover of books. I also dabbled a little bit in writing, but honestly didn’t have the discipline or attention span to see a book through to the end. But I’ve always loved stories, and language, and how language shapes stories. I think this is part of what compelled me to major in Linguistics at the University of McGill (and take as many language classes as I could – French, Latin, Polish, and Chinese, but please don’t ask me to say anything in any of them). Linguistics is a very academic field, however, and by the time grad school application time came around I was sick of academia. That’s when I had my lightbulb moment: publishing books is a job people have!

It took about three years of interning at agencies, publishing houses (editorial and a brief stint in online marketing) while working at bookstores before I came to Lowenstein Associates. Agenting really combines the best of both ends of the publishing spectrum, I think: I get to be very editorial with my authors, but I also can “hand-sell” manuscripts to editors whom I think would be the best fit.

Tammy: I understand you have a weak spot for fairytales. One of my all-time favorites, I might add. What aspect do you believe stayed with you into adulthood? Is it a childhood love or the cultural archetypical resonance or something else?

Emily: Definitely both a childhood love and the cultural resonance – I would especially love to see more non-Grimm/Perrault retellings! I was one of those kids that pored over every collection of fairy tales and folklore I could get my hands on. I was enchanted by Grimm, Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, and the illustrators that brought the stories to life – Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham. I was particularly fond of the D’Aulaire books of Greek and Norse mythology, too.

But fairy tales and myths are really the best stories distilled to their very basics, and I love novels that borrow heavily from the structure you find in fairy tales: the repetition, the significance of three (or whichever number), etc. DEATHLESS by Cat Valente is a novel based heavily on Russian folklore that does this so beautifully. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2012.

Tammy: Based on your bio, you are entertaining nonfiction in the areas of linguistics, anthropology and history. Being a history and mythology buff myself, (my primary is the love of ancient civilizations), I was wondering if you had a favorite time period and/or civilization, perhaps something that provided a springboard to expand in that area?

Emily: My love of history is largely informed by the books I read and loved as a child – including the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and basically all of the American Girl stories and the “Dear America” series. So my interests are pretty broad, but I especially love periods of history that are on the brink of something great or disastrous: the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Roaring Twenties… Historical non-fiction that I’m likely to pick up explores little-known aspects of a time period or place, or takes a really narrow scope (like Mark Kurlansky’s books).

Tammy: What would you say is the best part of your day being an agent? And what part would you say is your most challenging?

Emily: The best part is, obviously, discovering new writers with amazing stories! Or reading a client’s amazing new story. Working with authors is the reason most of us get into this job in the first place, and it remains the most gratifying. The most challenging, for me, is the waiting – waiting for revisions, waiting for editors to read, waiting for meetings to be had and offers to hopefully be made. Luckily there’s always a LOT to do, so the time can pass pretty quickly when you’re working on contracts, royalties, subrights, etc.

Tammy: Do you believe that an author should be social media savvy? How social media savvy should he or she be?

Emily: Absolutely. The more an author is engaged with their readership, the better their chances of success. Social media is such a boon, though I understand how it can be overwhelming. My advice to authors is to TRY out every platform – Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, etc. – and see what “clicks” the best. Some authors can do it all, and some can’t. The important thing to keep in mind is the demographics of every social media platform – where are your readers? – and tailor to that. If you can be really good at one or two things, that’s a lot better than being bad at six.

Tammy: If you could give three pearls of wisdom to a would-be published author what would it be?

Emily: Be patient – with the publishing industry, and with yourself.
Be kind – maybe you feel like writing a nasty response to an agent, or complaining on your Facebook, but remember that publishing is an industry of relationships, and also the internet is forever.
Be resilient – you will be rejected. By critique groups, by agents, by publishers. Learn what you can from the experience, brush off your shoulders, and persevere.

Posted by Donna Brennan at 8:30 PM
Labels: Emily Gref, history, Lowenstein Associates, nonfiction, pearls of wisdom for authors, social media

It is truly amazing the wealth of information one can find with the many blogs at our fingertips. And how easy it is to get mired under taking note what works for others.

Then sometimes you stumble over a blog filled with such simple truths you can’t help but feel invigorated.

That was me this morning. I found myself pulling up my manuscript (which I’m currently revising) to see whether I had all this “holy grail” of steps.

Nothing like getting zapped by inspiration in the morning along with a good cup of coffee.

Pixar’s 22 storytelling tips have been cir
Before I jump into my writing day, I’ve taken to skimming blog entries and found this one about agent searching along with 10 legitimate links to find them.

Caren Johnson Estesen

drawing concept

Most large publishing houses won’t consider your work without an agent presenting it to them (there are exceptions to this, e.g. when taking pitches at conferences or opening up imprints that specifically consider non-agented authors). Why won’t they? There are too many writers who shove poorly written books at editors and become indignant, or even angry, when they’re not taken seriously. The agent is responsible for cleaning up projects so that they can be presented in nearly publishable condition. This pushes agents to always be on the lookout for great writing talent. So how does the average writer get their work in front of agents? By knowing where to look for them.

In no particular order:

Publishers Marketplace



Romance Writers of America

Mystery Writers of America

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators

Authors Guild

Preditors & Editors

Association of Authors’…

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The Sword and Pen OR seeking expertise while having fun

On a day many were drinking green beer, members of neighboring shires gathered for an afternoon of melees (battles) with swords and shields, armor, archers and spears while the ROTC trained nearby. And all this in a Pennsylvania college town

No. I’m not making this up. I was there today waiting semi-patiently for the doors to open at 1 pm with 40 some others so the battles and duals could commence .

It was a fun afternoon.

And where was I in all this? Mostly outside the gym with the other fencers and increasing my knowledge of swordplay with rapier and dagger and training others. Yes, I’m talking real swords and daggers with blunt edges, blade flexibility and blunts on the tips.

As a writer, this activity gives me a wide playing field of experiences to draw from and resources to go to when I need to ask questions such as how would one train and what the different great masters taught. Some of these fencers have been training for 20 years and more and are a wealth of information. All great stuff – though, this by far, is not the only and maybe not even the biggest reason I do this. It’s immensely fun.

Convenient perhaps that my hobby and my world-setting walk in tandem currently. But there are other aspects of my make-believe story world and other experts I had to tap such as speaking with equestrians (i.e. horse people), costume designers, historians and others.

And people generally like being interviewed by a writer.

[“Hey honey, I got interviewed by a writer! How cool is that? Maybe he/she will put me in their book.] — Who had difficulty hearing this in your head?

But even with this wide-range permission slip, many writers, particularly new ones, cringe at the idea of seeking experts in a field. As a whole, we do tend to be introverts (with a few exceptions)and perhaps in a way there is an aspect of necessity for the creative spark BUT it is important to look up, live life and sometimes, even move out of a comfort zone.

Anyway, the medieval free company/mercenary household I hang with are training for the big annual event where approximately 14,000 people from around the world (and other kingdoms) will get together for two weeks in a temporary city to have a medieval war. We are talking days of up to thousands on a side doing battle in the woods, in the field, and in the town. And afterwards there will be medieval leisure activities — courtly dancing, storytelling, plays, concerts and parties.

I’d love to hear who and what groups, organizations and experts you tap for your story worlds.

Happy writing!


Writing tips (ongoing)


Writing tip #35: Does each of your scenes advance the plot, develop the character(s), illustrate your theme or help contribute to suspense? How can you make it do double or triple duty?

Writing tip #34: Even when you’re not feeling the muse, get something on page EVERYDAY.

Writing tip #33: Do you know what your beloved character just would not do? What happens when she does it?

Writing Tip # 32: It isn’t what you, the writer. wants to tell your readers (all that juicy backstory and details floating through your head)….IT’S what the character desperately wants the reader to know.

Writing tip 31: If you are not happy with a scene, figure out why. Does it drive the story forward and/or deepen the character?

Writing tip #30: Be on intimate footing with the elements which create the heart of your story for this is your ‘Throughline’ and it shall run quietly through every page and push your characters out of the dark middle woods and into the light of resolution.

Writing tip #29: Remember (like in the real world) – it isn’t always what is right in front of the reader which rivets attention but what can be read between the lines.

Writing tip #28: It’s good to keep the reader guessing. However, don’t make him/her kin to Sherlock Holmes on his best day- in other words, don’t be stingy with the clues. AND remember all the answers shouldn’t be dumped in one massive pile at the end.

Writing tip #27: Implement the good things you pick up about your craft before the information transforms to dandelion fluff.

Writing tip #26: Finish what you start. Practically every writer gets to the muddle of their WIP (work in progress). Remember what originally excited you about the project and work through it.

Writing tip #25: Make the details in your setting count. Not only should it clue the reader into where he/she is but how it impacts the POV character. And remember, there is more in the sensory toolbox than what the character would see.

Writing tip #24: Part of the ride for the reader is to live vicariously through your characters.So learn to ETAC after a serious thwarted goal knocked the wind out of your POV character. What is his/her reaction (E – emotion and T – first thought)? What can he/she do (A-action)? And what is his/her decision (C – choice)? Then immediately go back to GOS (Goal-Obstacle-Situation).

Writing tip #23: Learn to GOS a scene. In other words, do you know what your POV character wants most desperately in the scene (G – goal)? What’s keeping him or her from it (O – obstacle)? And what is the consequence is (S – setback)? And now the bonus kicker question — Is your reader able to pick all that up simply reading your scene?

Writing tip #22: Look up and explore new places. Get out of your comfort zone and research not only on the internet but with the experts.

Writing tip 21: Read what you’ve written aloud. Is there inflection? Rhythm? Flow?

Writing tip 20: Technology is wonderful to leverage. Have pen and paper or a smart phone when you’re out and about and the muse hits. But remember — butt glue (fanny in seat) is key to consistent writing.

Writing tip #19: Keep a dream journal or daydream a scene. a character, your world or dream how it’ll feel when you’ve become the successful writer you want. Writing is in the business of dream it – it may come.

Writing tip #18: Having a bad writing day? Well, was there something new you wanted to explore? Remember writing is fun It is the ultimate pretend playtime an adult can have outside of romping with a pack of kindergarteners — just keep filling that play pail.

Writing tip #17: If you don’t have a deadline, consider making one And don’t be afraid to get your writer friends to keep you honest. It’s one of the ways writing budz can help.

Writing tip #16: Tension is what keeps readers turning the page so make every scene contain somebody’s thwarted desire – external or internal. This also is the key to allow your reader to truly experience the caliber of your characters.

Writing tip #15: Trust in your storytelling abilities particularly when the anti-muse whispers you are wasting your time. Write anyway, Continue to learn your craft and keep writing.

Writing tip #14: Your protagonist must be bigger than life. Readers connect with a sympathetic character and these characters can allow a reader to live vicariously through them allowing the reader to experience things he or she would never do. Write big. You can always scale back during the revision.

Writing tip #13: The world needs storytellers and storytellers should know many tales. Remember to read — first for the ride and then the critique.

Writing tip #12: Don’t limit your creative process. For example, if you can’t “see” a scene try story boarding it or play act it out.

Writing tip #11: Having difficulty starting your writing day? Set a timer for 120 seconds, bring up a blank page and type anything…even random letters. Only rule – don’t stop or go back to correct on this exercise.

Writing tip #10 – Play the “what-if” game often. Think of at least 10 different options of what could happen within a story-line and be prepared — the last what-if, many times, will be the one you want.

Writing tip #9: Be brave and bear your soul on the page. After all, what reader hasn’t gotten the willies, or became teary-eyed or angry or laughed out loud when reading a good book? Have you experienced any of that when you’ve written? If not, is it because you’re afraid to let go?

Writing tip #8: It is your duty to be a troublemaker for your character. Yes, be a problem-solver and then be an even bigger troublemaker. After you get in the swing of it, it’s actually sort of fun.

Writing tip #7: Give yourself permission to not be perfect in your writings. Instead just get it all on paper (physical, electronic, it doesn’t matter). Worry about revisions after.

Writing tip #6: Interact with your imaginary friends aka your characters. Do you know their top 3 strengths and weaknesses? Will your other characters corroborate with you or do they have a differing opinion?

Writing Tip #5: The top three most important things to do is write, write and write! Carve out at least 15 minutes a day to do these three most important things.

Writing tip #4 Your muse is your friend. Feed her often with all sorts of thoughts and ideas — she will spin you something amazing.

Writing tip #3 — At the end of your writing day, give yourself a loose end, a deliberate unfinished place to be an easy diving spot to plunge back into your “other world.”

Writing tip #2 – When the muse starts whispering – jot down everything she says – of course, some things you won’t be able to use (at least currently) BUT other things will be pure genius.

Writing tip #1 — To truly know one’s heroes, one must know the villains.