New Year’s Resolutions: Dusting off my shelved manuscripts

As January firmly establishes itself, this might seem a bit late for a resolutions post, but I always planned to take January off from writing and relax some, so you haven’t missed anything.

For me, this is going to be a year of reading, revision, and reflection.

Blogging/Vlogging

I’ve got such a lovely streak going here, I’d hate to break it. So, I’ll continue putting out a new blog/vlog every Thursday on writing tips or writerly musings.

When I have them lined up, I’ll be sharing Author Spotlights or Query Corners on Tuesdays.

Plus, I’m contemplating maybe a picture post on the weekends. I’m debating if Saturday or Sunday is better. Suggestions?

Reading

They say one can’t be a writer without reading. And, finding out what’s new and good in your genre is research, right? Although, that doesn’t mean I won’t do plenty of ‘for fun’ reading.

My goal is to read 26 books this year, one every other week on average. (Although, I tend to read in binges.) I’m looking at taking breaks from writing to focus on downtime and reading in January, MarchMay, and July. And I hope that planning intentional breaks will help fight the feeling of being on a never-ending treadmill, where I fail if I let myself take a break.

So far? I’ve read a couple romances and all 4 books in Charlie Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series. I think I’m off to a good start.

Revising

I’m sitting on a backlog of 4 manuscripts in various states — mostly collecting dust. It’s time to fix that.

I got some great feedback from a critique partner back in November for Manuscript #1 (a secondary world young adult fantasy), but it was kind of a bitter pill to swallow. I have been brainstorming and messaging with the critiquer on ways to fix it. But I took December and January off, partially sulking, partially trying to figure out how to solve the issues mentioned. I’m going to let the ideas percolate a bit more and plan to hold off until February before implementing my fixes.

Then, in April, I’m going to pull out MS #2 — the sequel to MS #1.

In June, I’m going to pull out either MS #3 (my gender-bent Robin Hood) or MS #4 (my middle-grade contemporary fantasy, where the more you connect with what you read, the more your world shifts to be like it… physically!)

Querying

Once MS #1 has been revised, again, I’m marching into the query trenches once more.

Starting in March, I intend to send out 3 queries a week for 4 months, unless I get an R&R. If it goes no where, I’ll contemplate edits in August.

Beta Readers

I’ll be reaching out to beta readers as I wrap up my revisions on MS #2 (May) and MS #3 or #4(July).  Readers for MS #2 will, by necessity, be people who have beta read or critiqued MS #1, but for the others, I’m open to a small pool of new readers.

I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.

If my Alpha reader’s schedule permits, I’ll send my manuscripts to her for quick feedback, but otherwise, these may just go straight to my beta readers.

In August and September, I’ve blocked time to incorporate the feedback — at least for MS #2. And perhaps, some updates for MS #1 (either as query feedback suggests, or to better set up MS #2’s plotting).

Conventions

I intend to hit Balticon again (May) and WorldCon (August) in Dublin (!!). I submitted to be a panelist at Balticon… but after they’d already started sending out panel invites, so I may have been too late there. We’ll see. (Keep your fingers crossed!)

Writing

Hmmm, there’s very little actual writing on this project plan, but sometimes, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Besides, I’ve been assured that editing and revising and brainstorming ARE part of the writing process.

Plus? I don’t have a big idea pushing on me right now.

That said, I intend to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. And then NaNoWriMo.

If I don’t have an idea by then, I’ll do a rebel NaNo and revise whichever manuscript hasn’t been touched.


And that’s my plan for the year. If you got a little lost, here’s the plan in chart form.

I’ll be focusing on reading every other month until the last quarter, revising most of my backlog, querying, a couple conventions, and a bit of writing.


What does your plan look like for 2019?

Did you build in flexibility?

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#29 Query Corner – Render

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

RENDER is a contemporary fantasy where secret telepaths can hack other people’s brains and manipulate their realities.

When medical resident, Dr. Kivrin Welch’s ex-boyfriend shows up, wanted for assassinating the senator he was paid to protect. That’s when she learns about renderers — telepathic mind hackers. Her ex admits he’s one, but someone’s learned how to turn rending into physical actions. How can they clear his name when his body did the killing?

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

RENDER sounds like a fantasy and a thriller in one. Fascinating world building. Your query was pretty solid and didn’t need much to polish it. My three big suggestions for your query are:

  • Minimize backstory – focus on goals
  • Keep it chronological
  • Having the perpetrator be someone close to them is normal in thrillers, so I wouldn’t spell it out in the query

Queryist’s Original:

<blockquote class="wp-block-quote “>

Dear [Agent],

RENDER is an adult contemporary fantasy, complete at 78,000 words, that will appeal to fans of V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS.
[Nice. Short and crisp with a relevant comp.]

Medical resident Dr. Kivrin Welch struggles to focus on patients when Cara, her hallucinated alter-ego, keeps popping up at inopportune times to berate her for any mistake she makes. When Kivrin’s ex-boyfriend, Clark, finally tells her about renderers—gifted individuals who can hack into other people’s minds and manipulate their perception of reality—it answers questions she’s long had about her hallucinations and her troubled past.

Clark Bantam, the ex Kivrin still pines for, is a renderer. He uses his abilities to escape police custody after being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Or rather, a crime he couldn’t stop himself from committing. Someone out there is a new kind of renderer—one who can hack not just minds, but bodies. They made Clark walk onstage at a political rally and shoot the U.S. Senator he was supposed to protect.

Kivrin agrees to hide Clark from the authorities if he tells her more about rendering. But then a friend’s betrayal sends them both on the run, with the FBI hot on their heels. Together, they navigate family secrets and unresolved feelings for each other in order to find the real culprit and clear Clark’s name. They think they’re hunting a stranger, but they will discover that the perpetrator was known to them all along.
[Cliche!]


My Revision:

Dear [Agent],

RENDER is an adult contemporary fantasy, complete at 78,000 words, that will appeal to fans of V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS.

Medical resident Dr. Kivrin Welch struggles to focus on her patients, but Cara, her hallucinated alter-ego, keeps popping up at inopportune times to berate her for any mistake she makes. When Kivrin’s ex-boyfriend, Clark, pops up and reveals his abilities as a so-called renderer—a gifted individual who can hack into other people’s minds and manipulate their perception of reality—it answers questions she’s long had about her hallucinations and her troubled past.

Clark Bantam is a renderer in trouble. Someone out there is a new kind of renderer—one who can hack not just minds, but bodies. They made Clark walk onstage at a political rally and shoot the U.S. Senator he was supposed to protect. Only Clark’s own abilities allowed him to escape police custody after being arrested for the crime he couldn’t stop himself from committing.

Kivrin agrees to hide Clark from the authorities if he tells her more about rendering–and how to protect herself. But then a friend’s betrayal sends them both on the run, with the FBI hot on their heels. If they can’t resolve their past and find the real killer, they might be the next victims.

[Insert Bio here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


[Q29]


I think Q29 has a chilling thriller, where even the characters don’t know what’s real!

And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#28 Query Corner: THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE is an upmarket novel that explores the coercive sterilization efforts in America.

When a privileged perfectionist and an ambitious street rat are hair-on-fire-late to their first law-school class and collide, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. After the women discover a dark link, they must learn to forgive the past in order to embrace their futures.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE sounds like an intriguing upmarket story, with a sincere exploration of the sterilization efforts in America, even after WWII.

My main comments are just organizational for the query:

  • Try to keep the query under 300 words.
  • You don’t need to show all your research.
  • You only capitalize names in a synopsis, not queries. But do try to keep the number of names to 4 or fewer.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

[Personalization.]

The Eye Begins to See, dual narrative complete at 92K words, is upmarket/ book club fiction. A modern examination of eugenics, what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized, that will share an audience with Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate), Necessary Lies (Diane Chamberlain), and Second Glance (Jodi Picoult).

The story of two women on a parallel journey through Duke Law School discover personal worth and what it means to be enough. BERYL McCLAREN [Capitalized names are for synopsis] is privileged, driven, fearless. And certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. METHEA ‘THEA’ CATTERSON is inner-city Chicago, tough, funny as hell. Brave and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class and become fast friends. Thea introduces Beryl to GRAYSON ‘GRAY’ HEGGS and HAZEL TANAKA. Gray is charming and hot nough to melt stone. He might be serious about Beryl, but falling in love with your best friend’s honorary brother could be a mistake. Hazel is an elegant Zen waif with a passion for gardening and an incalculable capacity for fostering community and compassion. She’s also the life-partner Thea never expected to meet. [This is a little heavy into synopsis]

Both women, after walking the long and sometimes heartbreaking path to personal and professional realization, find themselves buried by dozens of archived documents alleging eugenic sterilization authorized by the state of North Carolina. The search reveals a potential and startling link between Beryl and Thea: DR. HARPER ENDRISS, the nightmare they never saw coming.

Most states ended forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina, backed by powerful elites including heirs to Procter &amp; Gamble and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, didn’t. More than 7,600 individuals were sterilized during this chapter. However, the topic remains centered on the world stage. The Eugenics Crusade, documentary – PBS (2018); Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) –
Netflix (2016). Prominent scientist Stephen Hawking (2018) predicted widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence. Psychology professor Aurelio Figuerdo (AZ) received $458K research dollars (2003-2018) from the estate of pro-eugenics textile magnate, Wickliffe Draper, then used a portion of the funds to attend the 2017 London Conference on Intelligence at
University of London. [You don’t need to show all your research in the query.]

This is my first novel and is a fictionalized version of my experience of sterilization in North Carolina. [I think we can reword a little smoother.]

Thank you for your consideration of representation. [A little blunt.]

Regards,

Q28


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Thea Catterson’s made it out of inner-city Chicago and into Duke Law School. Determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother, she’s going to have to make friends if she’s going to survive schooling with the elite. And maybe even find a girlfriend.

Beryl McClaren is determined to do her best to meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother and become the best darn lawyer out there. When she literally collides with Thea, as they’re both hair-on-fire-late to their first class, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. And that was before she met Thea’s hot, honorary brother. Through school, loves, and loss, the pair is there to support each other. Their professional lives lead them into the dark side of North Carolina’s past — eugenics — and deep in the papers, the friends find another, darker personal connection. The pair must learn to forgive the past or be torn apart by a wrong done before they were born. [Are these the stakes?]

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is an LGBT [since I took out the reference earlier. Oh wait, I just tried to add some back in] dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words. It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance. [see if you can pick 2. And if you move this back up top, I’d remove the ‘inspired by true events part, or work it in later. Unless you’re marketing this as a memoir, I wouldn’t launch with that.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q28

 


And with a few tweaks to make sure their voice showed through, here’s the final version.

Dear Agent,

[Personalization.]

Beryl McClaren is privileged, driven, and certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. Thea Catterson is inner-city Chicago-tough, funny as hell, and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class, and become fast friends. Through excruciating coursework, love and loss, they support each other to the finish line to achieve their dreams.

Beryl detours into an unexpected relationship and must escape the shackles of unimaginable abuse to right her course. Thea must repair the damage her family’s endured following the violent death of the junkie mother she never knew, bringing her face-to-face with the drug-dealing brother she thought she left behind. Beryl and Thea walk an arduous, heartbreaking path – a journey to enough. As public prosecutors, they land on a collision course toward a truth to rock their world. In 2003, drowning in heart-wrenching archives confirming unwanted and often clandestine eugenic sterilizations. The pair discovers a darkly startling link that binds them: Dr. Harper Endriss, a nightmare they never saw coming. The challenge? Forgive the past in order to embrace the future.

Most states abandoned forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina did not. Almost 7,700 individuals were sterilized during this chapter in the state’s history. This topic remains centered on the world stage – The Eugenics Crusade, PBS (2018), Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) Netflix (2016), Stephen Hawking’s (2018) prediction of widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence.

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is a dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words.  It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Q28

 

An intense story of adulthood and dealing with consequences of the darker side of things.

Best of luck to Q28!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#27 Query Corner: PREDESTINED

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

PREDESTINED is a contemporary fantasy set in a magic school.

When Evie’s crush, Justin, offers to use his dark magic to help unlock her magic, she’s horrified. Now, the race is on for her to master her magic before the darkness consumes Justin.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

PREDESTINED sounds like a solid magic school fantasy.

A couple of things to think about:

  • The ‘clumsy’ girl is a bit of an overdone trope at this point. I’d skip using it in the query.
  • Give details – keeping things vague show how you’re like your genre, details show how you’re different.
  • Focus on the stakes more than world building.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

Evie, a clumsy sixteen-year-old, is finally selected for something! Invited to train in the safety of Haven High, a special facility for the supernaturally gifted, Evie travels into a pocket dimension near her hometown in North Carolina. James Cabot, whose icy blue eyes have distracted her since… forever, can control fire, but no matter how hard Evie tries to coax her unknown power into being, it remains unresponsive. Evie finds some comfort in the warrior angels that train her, but absolutely nothing in her life prepared her to fight the things that fill the night.

Just as her fear and frustration are at their height, she finds out that she is the key to keeping the balance while evil fights to overpower the light. Hoping her first date with James will spark her power and change her luck, Evie follows him to an abandoned part of campus.  To her horror, he attempts to coerce her into abandoning the light, joining him, and forsake her destiny as the balance keeper. Just as she begins to understand her own gift over the air, Evie launches a battle against James and all of darkness, quickly discovering that true power isn’t manipulating flames, water, earth, or wind, but in mankind’s ability to choose.

As Evie’s new team of classmates and sentinels gather to face off against evil itself, the balance teeters towards destruction and eternal darkness.  Evie must learn to effectively weaponize air in time to keep the balance and rescue James from becoming a slave to darkness.

PREDESTINED is a 70,000-word fantasy novel.

When I’m not writing, I’m [job] in [place].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q27


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Evie is finally chosen for something! Invited to train as a sophomore at Haven High, a special facility for the magically gifted, Evie travels into a pocket dimension near her hometown. To her surprise, James Calbot, the boy with the icy-blue eyes that she’s been infatuated with forever, is a student.

Evie’s excitement quickly turns to dejection when her gifts refuse to manifest. When James invites her on a date, Evie thinks her luck’s about to change. Instead, James offers to help reveal her gift using methods born of darkness. Evie refuses and James quickly loses control of his flames.

Seeing Evie burned, James is overwrought with guilt and shame, and allows the darkness to consume him.  When Evie can’t find him, she becomes determined to rescue him, launching a rescue attempt on her own. When Evie discovers James’s plans to make her queen over all darkness, Evie finally understands the danger she has been in. Now Evie must learn to effectively wield her gift if she’s going to save her brother Tristan before he’s sacrificed.

Predestined is a fantasy novel set in North Carolina and is complete at 70,000 words.

When I’m not writing, I am teaching 6th-grade middle school English in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

PREDESTINED is a 70,000-word fantasy novel.

When I’m not writing, I’m [job] in [place].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q27

 

A creepy sounding magical high school adventure–full of consequences and stakes!

Best of luck to Q27!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#26 Query Corner: WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE is an adult contemporary romance with hints of magical realism.

Awakened from a coma, Josh Michaels learns his beloved wife was a dream. Meanwhile, Maggie Forsett dreams of a better life–and her dream lover. Then they’re drawn together in real life. Can reality ever match a dream?

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE sounds like a sweet romance with some of the genre’s favorite tropes — comas, dreams, meant-to-be.

Some agents like a tagline first, so I’m going to leave that in here. Good job showing both character’s points-of-view and showing what they want.

A couple of things to think about:

  • Give details – keeping things vague show how you’re like all the other romances, details show how you’re different
  • Try to tell each character’s paragraph in their voice, but keep it in the 3rd person present tense.

 


Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

Legend has it that the inability to sleep at night directly correlates to being awake in someone else’s dream.

Josh Michaels sleeps as soundly as ever; so soundly, he doesn’t know he’s dreaming. When a car accident sends him into a recuperative coma, he inadvertently dreams a life that doesn’t exist. He meets and falls in love with a woman who captures his heart and enraptures his soul. [Lots of telling, not much showing.] Waking from a coma comes with the gripping realization that what he thought was the last two years of his life was a lie.

Meanwhile, sleep is elusive to Maggie Forsett. Her world has been thrown off its axis since her father suffered from his second stroke, leading to his inevitable death. In evaluating her life and who she has become, she begins to question everything and sends her world into turmoil as her relationship suffers. Struggling with grief, along with prioritizing the things important to her, she knows her journey is better alone. [This is a bit of stereotype. You don’t need to describe it so much.] She finds solace in dreaming and the help of a nameless stranger that appears at night, helping her find herself after having lost sight of who she is.

Josh has been ripped apart by the pain of waking from his dream. Maggie longs for nothing more than the man in hers to be a reality. A chance meeting could bring them together or bring their worlds crashing down around them.

WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE is an adult contemporary romance with hints of magical realism complete at 88,000 words.

I write from my home in [X].

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Q26


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Legend has it that when you can’t sleep, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dreams.

When a car accident sends Josh Michaels into a recuperative coma, he inadvertently dreams a life that doesn’t exist. He meets and falls in love with a woman who captures his heart and enraptures his soul. Waking from a coma comes with the gripping realization that what he thought was the last two years of his life was a lie.

Meanwhile, Maggie Forsett’s become an insomniac as she spends her non-working hours at her father’s bedside after his second stroke. After he passes, she’s left struggling with grief and determined to prioritize the things important to her. Her boyfriend doesn’t make the cut. But, in the quiet of the night, Maggie dreams of a stranger and the life she wants.

Josh has been ripped apart by the pain of waking from his dream. Maggie longs for nothing more than the man in hers to be a reality. When their dream-memories draw them together in real life, each must decide if they’re willing to take a chance on a familiar stranger or forget the dreams and continue rebuilding their lives, apart.

WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE is an adult contemporary romance with hints of magical realism complete at 88,000 words.

I write from my home in [City], [State]. [Etc.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q26

***

The querist sent off their edited query, but followed up and shared the sent version:

Dear Agent,

Legend has it that when you can’t sleep, it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dreams.

Josh Michaels sleeps as soundly as ever; so soundly, he doesn’t know he’s dreaming. When a car accident sends him into a recuperative coma, he inadvertently dreams a life that doesn’t exist. He meets and falls in love with a woman who captures his heart and enraptures his soul. Waking from a coma comes with the gripping realization that what he thought was the last two years of his life was a lie.

Meanwhile, Maggie Forsett has become an insomniac as she spends her non-working hours at her father’s bedside following his second stroke. After he passes, she’s left struggling with grief and determined to prioritize the things important to her. Her recently strained relationship with her boyfriend comes to an end. But, in the quiet of the night, Maggie dreams of a stranger and the life she wants.

Josh has been ripped apart by the pain of waking from his dream. Maggie longs for nothing more than the man in hers to be a reality. When their dream-memories draw them together in real life, each must decide if they’re willing to take a chance on a familiar stranger or forget the dreams and continue rebuilding their lives, apart.

WHEN DREAMS COLLIDE is an adult contemporary romance with hints of magical realism complete at 88,000 words.

Yours Sincerely,

Q26

A great sounding romance with a sweet twist!

Best of luck to Q26!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!