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Even if you’re not a science fiction aficionado, you’ve probably run into your share of cyberpunk stories (like the movie The Matrix). But at Writer’s Relief we can’t help but wonder: Is the popularity of cyberpunk—and all of its many, MANY subgenres— suffocating the market?

According to Lee Konstantinou in Slate:

This proliferation of SF punks is what you’d expect from the overproduction of popular culture. Musical subgenres, likewise, offer so many new niches that it can be hard even for aficionados to keep up. When you try to come up with new artistic ideas in a crowded field, a new name can signal your relation to—and distance from—existing styles. Moreover, as SF scholar Sean Guynes-Vishniac argues, publishers always want to find evermore-narrowly-sliced microgenres, hoping to squeeze every aesthetic niche dry.

Read more on slate.com.

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March 20 is the birthday of beloved children’s television show host Mr. Rogers. Countless fans learned valuable lessons from Fred Rogers throughout the years. And while his show was geared toward children, at Writer’s Relief we feel that adults can learn from his teachings too—including writers! Here are a few writing lessons inspired by the words of Fred Rogers. Enjoy, neighbor!

Writing Lessons Inspired By The Words Of Mr. Rogers

Show Support And Kindness

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”—Fred Rogers

The publishing world can be brutal. Writers face rejection day in and day out, so it’s important that we all make an effort to treat others with kindness—even when giving a critique. Support your fellow writers by offering constructive feedback and encouragement! A kind word can erase the demotivating effect of a hundred rejections.

And on a day when you’ve stepped ankle deep in a puddle, spilled coffee all over your favorite shirt, and received an umpteenth rejection from a literary agent or editor—don’t vent your frustrations by replying with an angry email. Take a breath, put on a dry pair of socks, and remember how important it is not to burn your bridges. You never know who knows whom in the publishing industry.

Learn To Grow From Writer’s Block

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”—Fred Rogers

Every writer knows that feeling of dread associated with sitting down to write, only to be confronted with a blank page and no idea where to start. But the fact of the matter is, writers can’t expect to grow if they only write when it’s easy. When writer’s block strikes (and sooner or later, it strikes every writer), use it as an opportunity to try something new. Use writing prompts, try writing in a different genre, or move to a different location. Shake up your muse and you’ll be writing again in no time!

Make Writer Friends And Other Connections

“Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn’t have to be a lonely kind of thing.”—Fred Rogers

The writing life may seem like a lonely one—often it requires that you sit alone in a room, ruminating over your work for hours or days on end. However, just because you write in solitude doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also connect with other writers, family, and friends. Meet other writers by joining a writing group in your area or online. And be sure to take a break now and then to grab dinner with your friends or watch a movie with your kids.

Believe In Yourself!

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”—Fred Rogers

Remember, you have a story in you that no one else can tell. When you’re feeling low about your success as a writer, keep in mind that a reader somewhere will be grateful that you’ve shared your story, essay, poem, or book. You have everything you need to succeed—all you have to do is believe in yourself!

Question: Which is your favorite quote from Mr. Rogers?

5 Writing Lessons Inspired By Mr. Rogers - YouTube

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When you begin querying literary agents to represent your novel or memoir, what steps can you take to ensure you’ll connect with the best possible literary agent—one you’ll really, really like?

Here at Writer’s Relief, we’ve been helping writers find the right literary agents since 1994. So we have some tried-and-true tips that can help boost your odds of making the right contacts.

First: Set The Stage For A Successful Query Process:
  • Write a great book and understand how it fits in the larger publishing marketplace.
  • Write a great synopsis.
  • Grow your author platform online with an author website and social media profiles.
  • Write a great query letter (or get expert help with your query letter).
  • Create a list of literary agents who are possible candidates to represent your book project.

Once you’ve done those things, you’re ready to try our five-step strategy to connect with the best possible literary agent for your book!

Step 1: Query Your Top-Choice Literary Agencies

In this step, no dream is too big, no star too high to reach for. Your dream literary agencies might include those really-hard-to-get agents who represent blockbuster writers and celebrities—and that’s okay. Some of them might even have a no simultaneous submissions policy.

Take your time and individually query three to five literary agents who make you go weak in the knees—even if that means you have to query (and then wait) one letter at a time.

Don’t be dismayed if your top-tier literary agents ultimately send you rejection letters, or don’t reply at all. This is only step one of the process. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and your goal is to find the best possible agent for you!

Step 2: Send Batches Of Queries To Your Second- And Third-Tier Favorites

Now it’s time for a huge push to get your query letters out to multiple literary agents. Refer to your list of agents and make a concerted effort to get your book pitch into the hands of all your second- and third-tier favorites.

Don’t worry about over-querying. You may need to submit your novel to a few dozen literary agents during this round. Here at Writer’s Relief, we recommend that writers do not give up submitting to literary agencies until they have queried a hundred agents. That may seem like a huge number, but we can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen writers connect with the ninety-ninth literary agent they queried.

If you’re looking for help identifying the literary agents who might really love your book project, poke around on the Writer’s Relief website to learn about our personalized submission assistance programs. Then find one that works for you!

Step 3: Cast An Even Wider Net

If literary agencies still have not responded to your book query in the way you’d hoped, it’s time to think outside the box—especially if you are writing a book that doesn’t necessarily fit neatly in a single genre.

Refer to your research to discover which literary agents may have a tangential interest in your book project. Then go ahead and query those agents—it certainly doesn’t hurt to try! And you might discover a literary agent who is interested in your work.

Keep in mind: Submissions guidelines may become outdated, and you might end up submitting work to an agent who does accept your type of book even though you didn’t realize it. Also, some literary agents can be so intrigued by a project that they are willing to take it on even if it’s not necessarily their usual type of project.

Step 4: Consider Querying Literary Agents Who Are New

New literary agents are hungry to take on great projects; they’re looking for those diamond-in-the-rough books that others may overlook. They’re also keeping their eyes peeled for projects that are great books, but that might need a little extra TLC to sell.

Learn more about whether or not you should take a chance on a new literary agent.

Step 5: Give Literary Agents A Good Reason To Reconsider Representing Your Book

If all else fails, it may be time to revise your strategy. Just because you queried a literary agent once and received a rejection, that doesn’t mean you can never query that literary agent ever again. You just have to have a really good reason to re-query.

Here are your options:

  • Write something new.
  • Significantly revise what you’ve already written.
  • Wait a while—the literary market might eventually become more favorable for your type of book. This happens all the time.
  • Put more effort into building your author bio: earn new awards or accolades, perhaps get an excerpt from your book published in a great magazine. Then see if your exciting new reputation will make literary agents sit up and notice.
  • Self-publish and put a huge effort into marketing and promotion. With any luck, you might be able to sell five thousand books in one year—an excellent benchmark to get literary agents excited about bringing your book to traditional publishers.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 1 – 5 Again (And Again)

Many writers will share the disappointing experience of having a book project rejected. But knowing this fact won’t necessarily lessen the sting of disappointment if your first book doesn’t connect with a literary agent. Remember: One round of rejections does not mean you’ll never have a career as a book author.

The key is to keep going. As Richard Bach says:

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.

Question: Do you have a story to tell about perseverance in your writing life? Share it in our comments section to inspire others!

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Meet our featured client, Rosalia Scalia! The assistant editor for Narrative Magazine, Rosalia has been published in Amarillo Bay, The Baltimore Review, North Atlantic Review, Pebble Lake, Pennsylvania English, The Portland Review, Quercus Review, and Willow Review—just to name a few. She also won first place in Taproot’s annual literary fiction contest, and has been awarded a Maryland State Arts Council grant.

Read on and watch the video to see how Rosalia accomplished this success rate by heeding the advice of her Writer’s Relief experts: “If at first you don’t succeed…”

Publish Your Story: Short Fiction Writer Rosalia Scalia Says Don’t Give Up - YouTube

In Rosalia’s Own Words

Becoming a writer is like climbing Mount Everest with a pickax: It’s tough going. The writing itself requires discipline and dedication. The submission process is labor- and time-intensive, while the rejections that boomerang back can be debilitating. Writing is the only art—the only product, if you look at it from the perspective of a publisher—that is produced and consumed in private. And so many of us spend time and energy chasing success as fiction writers, poets, and storytellers of all stripes. Writer’s Relief is there with us every step of the way—for those of us who invest in our future success by investing in Writer’s Relief’s services.

Without Writer’s Relief, I would have given up many times—especially at those times when I had no new work to send out and little confidence in my existing work that had already been rejected by literary magazine editors. Without Writer’s Relief, I wouldn’t have more than thirty published short stories to my credit. Several times Writer’s Relief strategists suggested I resubmit an existing story that had collected rejections in the first round. I’d resubmit and, much to my surprise, the story found a home!

In fact, my story “Training Wheels” falls into that category. After its initial voyage around to the lit mags, it sat in limbo in the Writer’s Relief files. I had lost faith in that story…thought it needed a revision…thought it lacked oomph. I thought it was a terrible work and should be buried under a giant rock. But a Writer’s Relief strategist convinced me to send it out in the forthcoming cycle, and much to my surprise, it received an acceptance in that second flight.

I have long considered Writer’s Relief as the best Girl Friday ever, and I never stop recommending it to my writer friends who want to advance their standing in the literary community by increasing their number of publications. I consider it an investment in my future as a writer, because having Writer’s Relief’s services means that I can focus on my work while leaving the time- and labor-intensive research of literary magazines to the skilled experts. The Writer’s Relief researchers make it their business to know all the lit mags. They keep track of submission schedules and personnel changes, along with everything else that helps your work represent you in the greatest way.

Also, their proofing skills are second to none. Despite being decent at grammar, I learned a few things from the Writer’s Relief proofreaders and have called them with questions when needed. This is the reason I’ve been involved with Writer’s Relief for more than a decade—and I hope to be lucky enough in this journey to invite them along with me if my work ever snags a substantial literary award!

More About Rosalia Scalia

Rosalia is a Baltimore-based writer of both fiction and nonfiction. She has a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her short story “Sister Rafaele Heals the Sick” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her story “You’ll Do Fine” won the Willow Review Award for the issue in which it appeared. She is currently at work on her first novel, Delia’s Concerto.

You can find more information about Rosalia on her website.

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After a long winter, it’s time to get your creativity out of hibernation! Writer’s Relief invites you to try these spring-themed writing prompts to wake up your muse.

Note: We would love to read what you write in the comments section! Just be aware of the rules about what is considered previously published writing in the publishing industry.

Spring-Themed Writing Prompts

As she walked by, onlookers turned to stare at the giant bouquet of flowers. Why does she have this bountiful bouquet, and where is she going?

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A post shared by Sarah Walker (@thecuratedhouse) on Feb 11, 2018 at 8:09am PST

Nature is fragile—or is it strong? Your poem explores the possibilities.

They used to meet here every afternoon, flying higher and higher in the old tire swing. But this spring, things were different. Why?

According to the old wizard, one of the nests held not bird eggs, but dragon eggs. The question was: Which nest?

Spring is sheep-shearing time—but not if this little one has a say in it. Tell the story:

He checked the address again on the slip of paper. This didn’t seem like the place where his grumpy science professor would live. And then the door suddenly swung open.

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A post shared by Brew As You Go | Fressko Flask (@madebyfressko_official) on Dec 18, 2018 at 1:00am PST

Want more writing prompts? Check out our Pinterest collection!

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To quote author Dr. Seuss (who once wrote a story using only fifty words), “…the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

At Writer’s Relief, we know that, after creating a first draft, it’s important for writers to know how to self-edit their novels, short stories, memoirs, and other creative prose. Effective editing will help your work appeal to more literary editors, agents—and readers who read!

27 Self-Editing Hacks That Will Instantly Improve Your Novel, Story, Or Memoir

Although you can view this checklist on your computer or mobile device, it may be more helpful to print it out and hang it near your workspace for easy reference.

  1. Format to industry standards (simple font, traditional spacing and margins, name/title/page number in the header of every page).
  2. Read aloud for sentences that flow well and convincing dialogue.
  3. Jump right in: Delete any “warm-up” paragraphs that stall the main action.
  4. Scrap unnecessarily fancy words.
  5. Delete repetitive language (i.e., she muttered softly, he shouted loudly).
  6. Cut adverbs.
  7. Swap weak verbs for strong ones.
  8. Rearrange sentences that start with “it” or “that.”
  9. Convert passive sentences to active sentences.
  10. Be suspicious of sentences that start with participles or gerunds.
  11. Reword sentences that ramble.
  12. Cut long sentences in half.
  13. Find and replace words that you overuse.
  14. Streamline bulky stage directions.
  15. Toss out unnecessary blocking—stage directions or descriptions of actions that could be quickly summarized.
  16. Watch for “empty” character responses (i.e., she said nothing or he didn’t reply).
  17. Check description for word choices that convey shifting moods so that the mood of each scene is unique.
  18. Trim description to your very best lines or phrases—and delete the rest.
  19. Delete your paragraph “topic sentences” that “explain” what is already being shown. For example: She was mad. Her face turned red and she crossed her arms.
  20. Rewrite narrative clichés (though you may want to hang on to colloquialisms for characters’ words and thoughts).
  21. Show, don’t tell.
  22. Delete unnecessary attributions. There’s no need to write “he said” if we already know he’s talking.
  23. Cut out anything but “said” (forget she sulked or he opined).
  24. Scrutinize long passages when characters are left alone. Find a way to dramatize internal monologues.
  25. Delete unnecessary character actions/musings that slow down or interrupt the pacing of natural dialogue.
  26. Rename characters whose names starts with the same first letter or whose names sound too similar.
  27. Kill your darlings. In other words, delete anything that sounds too “writerly” or fancy. Learn more about how to recognize and self-edit overwriting.
How To Be More Objective During The Self-Editing Stage Of Your Writing Process

It’s not easy to be objective about your own writing! But with time and practice, you may find that you’re able to self-edit your creative writing with an increasingly objective eye.

In the meantime, learn more about self-editing tips for objectivity.

Remember: You Still Might Need A Professional Proofreader Or Editor To Review Your Book Or Story After Self-Editing

Self-editing is a key skill for writers hoping to improve the quality of their creative writing. But professional editors make it their jobs to sharpen their editing skills and put them to work for you. Often, a professional editor can see things that even the most objective self-editor might miss.

Learn more about how to hire a professional editor.

More Articles And Books About How To Self-Edit Your Writing

NaNoEdMo: The Best Way To Become A Better Self-Editor

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print (book)

How To Edit A Book

The Top Ten Golden Rules Of Self-Editing

Self-Editing Tips: Six Ways To Make Your Editor Stop Yelling At You

How To Write Well: 10 Essential Self-Editing Tips

Question: Which self-editing tip do you think will help you most?

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Writer's Relief Blog by Writer's Relief Staff - 2w ago

Meet our featured client, Yvonne Leach! This year, Writer’s Relief celebrates twenty-five years of helping writers get their work published—and we are proud and delighted that Yvonne has been with us for fifteen of these twenty-five years!

Yvonne is the author of Another Autumn (WordTech Editions, 2014), and her poems have been published in South Dakota Review, South Carolina Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Wisconsin Review, and more. Watch Yvonne’s video and read on to see why she and Writer’s Relief have had such a long and successful relationship.

Poet Yvonne Higgins Leach: Publishing Poetry For 15 Years With Writer’s Relief - YouTube

In Yvonne Leach’s Own Words

It’s not an unfamiliar story. Like other writers, there I was balancing a more than full-time career for twenty-five years, raising a family, and trying to stay committed to my writing. I did carve out the time to write—often at 9:00 or 10:00 at night after the kids were asleep—but I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting the poems out for consideration. In 2003, I learned about Writer’s Relief and haven’t looked back. They helped me get my individual poems out into the world, which led to the publication of my first book in 2014. I am now producing poems at a steady pace that’s matched with a publication rate I feel very good about. The staff at Writer’s Relief has been there with me every step of the way. I truly value this partnership.

More About Yvonne Leach

After earning a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University, Yvonne Higgins Leach spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. Now a full-time poet, she dedicates her time to reading as many poetry books and anthologies as she can, participating in open mics, retreats and workshops, and working diligently on her second volume. She is expanding her work to include the many political and socioeconomic challenges of our day, including poems that open in gratitude for the natural world and at the same time ache for what humankind is doing to destroy it. She splits her time living on Vashon Island and in Spokane, Washington.

For more information, visit Yvonne’s website.

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March is Women’s History Month, and at Writer’s Relief, we feel the best way to celebrate is to learn about—and read—some of history’s most trailblazing, badass female writers. Whether they broke the molds of society, changed the face of literature, or spoke out for their beliefs, these authors are all inspiring examples of brave women who dared to be different—and did it well.

Celebrate Women’s History Month With These Trailblazing Women Writers

Aphra Behn (1640–1689). Though not much is known about Aphra Behn’s life, we do know that she was recruited as a spy by King Charles II. She was also the first Englishwoman to have earned a living through her writing.

According to historians, while employed as a spy, Behn was either not paid or not paid enough, so she began writing plays to support herself. She also wrote fiction and poetry, but her plays brought in the most income.

Even without a moneyed background or being allowed an education because she was a woman, Behn managed to forge a career for herself out of writing. And she was one of the first women to do so.

 

Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784). Born in West Africa and sold into slavery around the age of seven, Wheatley was the first published African-American female poet.

The Wheatley family who purchased Phillis recognized her intelligence and literary talent and allowed her to focus on studies rather than household duties. Eventually, even George Washington praised Wheatley’s work and met with her. She was freed following the publication of her first book.

Besides writing poetry, Wheatley also corresponded with other writers, articulating her views on political matters and arguing for the freedom of all people. Though she died in poverty at only thirty-one years old, Wheatley certainly left her mark on the world of literature.

Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888). Perhaps best known for her book Little Women, Alcott was an American writer, abolitionist, and feminist. She grew up surrounded by many contemporary authors and intellectuals, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Alcott and her family also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. She advocated for women’s suffrage, and was the first woman registered to vote in Concord, MA. She also served as a Union nurse in the Civil War (until contracting typhoid) and was an advocate for running as exercise—which is more shocking than it sounds, since societal norms frowned on women engaging in such a physical activity.

Upon her death, Alcott was buried in Sleepy Hollow cemetery alongside Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, in a spot known as “Author’s Ridge.”

Edith Wharton (1862–1937). This American writer was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature (1921).

Though born into wealth, Wharton eschewed the fashion and expected etiquette of her time and instead pursued education and writing.

Wharton traveled extensively, crossing the Atlantic Ocean over sixty times and writing about her travels. Wharton lived in Paris when World War I broke out, and instead of leaving, she remained and opened a workroom for women where she fed and paid them for their sewing. She traveled to the front lines numerous times and supported refugees, the unemployed, and those injured in the war.

Though her first novel wasn’t published until she was forty years old, Wharton ultimately wrote and published fifteen novels and novellas, eighty-five short stories, poetry, books on travel, design, cultural and literary criticism, and a memoir.

 

Nellie Bly (1864–1922). This American journalist is best known for feigning mental illness to get an undercover look inside one of New York’s most notorious insane asylums.

Despite not being able to finish school due to her family’s financial crisis, Nellie nabbed her first job as a columnist by penning a smart letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch about the paper’s not-so-great representation of women. The editor printed her letter and offered her a job.

Wanting to cover more serious topics, Bly moved on to The New York World, and had herself committed to the mental hospital on Blackwell’s Island. Even after she dropped her “crazy” act, the insane asylum would not release Bly, and the newspaper had to send an attorney to get her out.

She then wrote a series of chilling articles about how terribly the patients were treated. These were later made into the book Ten Days in a Mad-House. The book launched Bly’s career and kicked off the practice of what we now call investigative journalism.

Bly also took a trip around the world in seventy-two days, which made her a world record holder for a few months. She married a millionaire and when he passed away, Bly inherited control of his manufacturing company. She went on to patent several inventions of her own. Bly also returned to journalism in her later years, covering important topics like the women’s suffrage movement and World War I. In fact, she was mistaken for a British spy and arrested while conducting research for her series on Europe’s Eastern Front.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873–1954). A French author known simply as Colette, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Colette married author Henry Gauthier-Villars, and her first four novels were published under his name. The books became wildly successful, and Colette wanted her own name on her work. Her husband refused, and they ultimately divorced.

Colette struggled for money after the divorce, since she was not entitled to any of the royalties from her books. Inspired by her struggles during this time, she wrote about a woman’s independence in a male-dominated society and world.

Colette eventually garnered her own success in her own name, and is now acknowledged as one of France’s greatest female writers.

 

Carson McCullers (1917–1967). Another well-known author, McCullers finished her first book, the literary classic The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, at just twenty-three years old. She went on to publish numerous other successful works.

McCullers was close friends with other famous writers of her time, like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. She spent much of her life shucking off the conventions of heterosexuality, choosing to dress in men’s clothes and pursue relationships with women.

McCullers also defied convention in her writing, which is perhaps why she was so successful. She wrote about loneliness, disabled characters, gay characters, outcasts, and eccentric people. McCullers broke the mold in many ways, both professionally and personally, and her writing is still read and enjoyed by readers today.

 

Audre Lorde (1934–1992). Most people have heard of Audre Lorde—and with good reason. Lorde was an American writer, feminist, activist, librarian, and more. As an African-American lesbian born to immigrant parents, she was a champion for intersectional feminism long before it was a mainstream topic of discussion.

Lorde wrote extensively about race, sexuality, and gender. She also battled cancer for fourteen years, during which she wrote The Cancer Journals, an examination of the medical profession through a feminist lens.

Lorde worked her way through school and became a librarian, a successful, published writer, and a professor. She was a talented writer and was never afraid to tackle difficult issues or to be open about her many identities, personal life, and beliefs. She remains a respected icon in the worlds of literature and political activism.

Question: Which women writers do you like to read?

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Whether you’re giving your current query letter a final once-over or are preparing to write a killer book pitch from scratch, you’ll want to bookmark this practical and simple query letter cheat sheet for novels and memoirs.

The pros at Writer’s Relief have broken down the elements of a successful query letter into the most fundamental essentials. Use this checklist as a starting point when evaluating your query letter—and for more advanced strategies and explanations, read our many other articles about writing effective query letters.

Note: Since most literary agents accept queries online, we’ve opted to format our cheat sheet for email queries rather than print/snail mail.

 The Opening Lines Of Your Query Letter
  • Dear First Name Last Name (don’t use: Mr./Mrs./Ms.)
  • Introduction: Please consider my [word count, if appropriate for genre] [book genre], TITLE.
  • Include a short log line only if your book lends itself especially well to pithy summary.
  • Include book comparisons with care (we find these can easily backfire).
The 200-Word Book Summary For Your Query Letter

This “connect-the-dots” approach to writing a book summary that captures the most important elements of your story might not work for ALL sorts of books, especially those that are experimental, nonlinear, or highly literary. Peruse it, use it, or eschew it—your call!

But first, three important hints:

HINT: Memoir summaries are most often written in first person past tense. If your book is a memoir, you’ll need to decide whether or not you’ll give away the ending of your book in the summary (sometimes, the ending becomes clear anyway in the author’s work/publishing history bio section).

HINT: Novel summaries are most often written in third person present tense. They should tease and tempt—and not give away the end.

HINT: Whatever your genre, resist the urge to editorialize about your own book. Instead, let the facts of your story demonstrate your themes and concerns—and your promises of a thrilling/heartfelt/gripping story—by proving them with the action of your summary. Fewer adjectives, more proof!

Book Summary Mini Checklist
  • Set the atmosphere/scene (if interesting) with local flavor. Just a short phrase will often do the job.
  • Introduce the main character (with a bit of colorful characterization if possible) and point to his/her expectations or desires.
  • Introduce a leading complication. This isn’t necessarily the MAIN conflict, but it should hint at the central issue. Sometimes, the complication is another person’s actions. Or it could be that the other person turns out to BE the complication. Then…
  • BOOM! Wow us with the Big Problem. How are the main character’s expectations/desires affected now that the big problem has arrived?
  • Next, the main character runs into increasing snags that make victory unlikely. The threat level of suspense (emotional or physical) is raised in specific ways.
  • Remind the reader of the high stakes if your main character doesn’t succeed. What is at risk?
  • Finally, hint at what the character will have to do (grow, escape, forget, move on) to succeed/thrive/win/recover/etc.

ADVANCED STRATEGIES: To flesh out the details of your book summary, review our all-inclusive checklist for creating a great book blurb for your query letter.

The Author Bio Checklist

After the book summary in your query letter comes the author bio (though some authors with especially strong or interesting publishing credits might want to open the letter with their “about me”). Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all author bio. But this step-by-step might help.

HINT: Write your author bio in an authentic first-person voice to convey your personality.

  • Put your best publishing credits first (here’s how to know which to prioritize).
  • Include self-publishing accolades (if any).
  • List book publications as Name Of Book Here (Publisher, DATE).
  • Brag about social media stats (or focus on your promising activity level instead of hard numbers).
  • Mention your pen name if you’ve already published under another name.
  • Include your current work status.
  • Sprinkle in a little info about your hobbies, family, personal interests—especially if they tie into your writing.
  • Invite the reader to connect with you via your author website or thriving social media profile to learn more.

ADVANCED STRATEGY: Read our comprehensive dos and don’ts for writing the author bio section of your query letter.

The Query Letter Closing Lines

If you think your book’s word count may be a weak point in your pitch (because it’s too big or small for genre standards), you might want to include the word count at the end of your query instead of right up front at the beginning.

  • Say thank you. Offer to send the manuscript or ask for further instructions.
  • Close with Sincerely/Warmly/Cordially/etc.
  • Full Name
  • Street Address
  • City, State Zip Code
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Author Website URL
  • Social Media URL(s)

Warning: Things Writers Probably Shouldn’t Say Do In A Novel Query Letter
  • I’ve been writing since I was [fill in age here] (unless it’s a *really* unique story)
  • I’ve never written anything before but…
  • I don’t like using social media
  • I had a really disappointing publishing experience with…
  • I hope you can sell a lot of copies of my book
  • If you need me, reach out to my secretary (instead of reaching out directly)

And make sure you don’t promise yours is the best book in the history of the world or the next “insert bestseller title.”

Queries By The Book: Read Deeper About Query Letter Writing

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching Mystery And Thriller Novels | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching A Romance Novel | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching A Book Of Poetry | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching Sci-Fi And Fantasy Novels | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching A Memoir | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching Self-Help And How-To |Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching A Collection Of Short Stories | Writer’s Relief

Query Letter Genre Essentials: Pitching A Cross-Genre Book | Writer’s Relief

More Query Checklist Advice

Checklist: How To Write A Query Letter That Doesn’t Suck

A Query Letter Checklist From Janet Reid

A Checklist For Your Query Letter

Want Help Writing Your Query Letter?

The submission strategists here at Writer’s Relief can help—AND we can pinpoint the literary agents who would be most likely to enjoy your book! Learn more about our services.

 

Question: Which part of a query letter do you find most difficult to write?

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Experimental fiction is a hot topic in contemporary literary magazines. This new concept has a modern, cutting-edge sensibility that puts the genre at the center of conversations about what fiction can (and can’t) do. At Writer’s Relief, we know editors love experimental literature for the way it pushes boundaries, while writers love experimental fiction for its lack of rules and infinite possibilities.

If you’re thinking about entering the experimental fiction market, you’ll need to be familiar with the following:

  • The definition of experimental fiction
  • Examples of experimental fiction
  • Which literary magazines are publishing experimental fiction
  • The strategies that will make editors more likely to publish your experimental fiction
Defining Experimental Fiction

What is experimental fiction? Experimental literature can include poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—or any combination thereof. Today, we’re focusing on experimental short stories and novels.

When the motivation behind a genre is experimentation, it’s difficult to say what’s “typical” about it—after all, its genesis lies in breaking the rules! Some people find it’s easier to say what experimental fiction is not, as opposed to what it is. Others point out that the definition of experimental fiction is always changing, with each new generation of writers pushing the boundaries of fiction in new ways. Ultimately, trying to pin down a single definition of experimental fiction is a slippery slope.

But we’re not here to debate what might or might not be experimental in fiction. Instead, we want to give you a practical, working definition of experimental fiction—so that you know how to get your prose experiments published.

Characteristics of Experimental Literature

Similar to experimental art genres. Absurdism, dadaism, surrealism, cubism—these are the visual cousins of experimental prose. Traditional art is steeped in realism, whereas experimental genres take realism and morph it into unrealistic, unfamiliar forms. The same goes for experimental literature. By turning away from literary realism and toward experimentation, this type of fiction seeks out the “truth” in inventive ways.

Not “easy” to read. Experimental fiction isn’t usually straightforward—which means it’s rarely considered “accessible.” Admirers of experimental fiction value the difficulty of uncovering deep meanings in surprising texts.

Not escapist. If commercial fiction intends for readers to get lost in a story, then experimental fiction works even harder to keep readers present in the prose.

Challenges tropes, genre rules, and literary traditions. Forget about traditional beginnings, middles, and ends—experimental fiction doesn’t necessarily have any use for classic plot structure. Also, experimental fiction may or may not welcome the idea of main characters—or any characters at all.

Not necessarily linear. Not only are traditional plot structures unnecessary to experimental writers, genre-bending stories don’t always tell their tales in a linear fashion. With disordered plot elements, readers may discover new insights and connections.

Deliberately unsettling or even disturbing. Experimental fiction doesn’t let readers get cozy. It shakes them up, undermines assumptions, and keeps readers on their toes.

Explores “big” ideas. Often, the technical pyrotechnics of experimental fiction explore important themes and ideas—especially those that defy definition, logic, and articulation.

Isn’t always subtle. Traditional literature fans tend to appreciate prose and storytelling that doesn’t smack them in the face with gaudy prose style or super-obvious themes and concerns. But experimental fiction is the rebel on the block who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks—subtlety is a rare bird in these parts.

Knowingly mixes fact and fiction. Mixed-genre writing is sometimes considered a type of experimental fiction. Mixed-genre short stories embrace elements of both fiction (totally made up) and memoir (true-life story). But the key to a story being considered experimental—as opposed to fiction inspired by true life—is that mixed-genre stories tend to take a self-aware approach to storytelling. Readers are deliberately given to understand that some things in the story are based on real life, and some are not, and which may or may not be clarified by the author/narrator.

Embraces metafiction. Writers may pop in and out of their own experimental fiction stories, commenting on the action or even on the quality of the writing. Readers may be reminded that they are “reading”—or, ironically, to  forget that they are reading. In experimental fiction, the boundaries that separate the reader, writer, author, narrator, editor—whoever—are often broken down.

Always changing. Experimental fiction writers are constantly innovating by asking questions about how they can challenge existing forms: How can I get my prose to do something it’s never done before? Why would I ask it to do that? What would it mean?

Plays with language. With experimental fiction, verb tenses can change at the drop of a hat. Point of view doesn’t have to be defined. Words can be given (or can take on) new meanings. Both spelling and punctuation are fair game for variations.

Doesn’t necessarily adhere to traditional prose layout. You know what a short story looks like when it’s laid out traditionally. In contrast, experimental fiction can sprawl all over a page—or just take up a tiny bit of it. Sentences don’t have to follow from left to right or proceed horizontally. Experimental literature writers see unusual possibilities in a blank page.

Might embrace mixed media. Some writers think outside the page by taking the idea of experimental literature into new mediums. Writers can incorporate images (that may or may not be experimental in and of themselves) into their stories, or they might embrace digital art concepts for Web display. The “story” grows when it incorporates forms of art that expand beyond prose.

Examples Of Experimental Fiction “Novels” And Short Story Collections

As we mentioned, the definition of experimental literature is up for debate. But the following books (both novels and short stories) have often been considered experimental in their times.

  • Angela Carter’s Burning Your Boats
  • Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story
  • William Gass’s The Tunnel
  • Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book
  • Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River
  • Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch
  • Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons
  • Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
  • James Joyce’s Ulysses

Literary Magazines Publishing Experimental Fiction Short Stories

The following is a list of literary magazines that accept experimental fiction. Please note that these magazines are listed for having editors known to publish the form and not for specializing in the genre. Also, keep in mind that editorial preferences and submissions guidelines are changing all the time. Do not submit your experimental fiction to these magazines until you’ve double-checked the guidelines.

Remember: If you want to ensure the viability of literary magazines that publish experimental works, be sure to subscribe!

Conjunctions

Journal of Experimental Fiction

Fiction Collective Two

Fiction International

Pank Magazine

Psychopomp

Unstamatic

Mud Season Review

ANMLY

Black Warrior Review

Hot Metal Bridge

The Spectacle

Heirlock Magazine

After the Pause

Angry Old Man

Anomaly Literary Journal

Caliban Online

The Fiction Pool

filling Station

6 Tips For Publishing Experimental Literature

Here at Writer’s Relief, we’ve been helping authors get published since 1994. Our expert researchers and submission strategists work together to determine which markets are BEST for a client’s unique submission. Here are some useful tips for submitting experimental literature to literary journals.

Experiment with your story, not with submission guidelines. Literary magazine editors may love writers who break the rules of fiction, but they’re not so keen on writers who break the submission rules designed to make their jobs easier.

Edit with care. Though some experimental fiction may appear messy or out of control, there is a method to the madness. Most well-published experimental authors spend LOTS of time revising and editing before submitting their work.

Master your craft—before you smash it into shards. Just as the world’s most well-known painters master the basics of portraiture and landscapes before branching out into experiments, prose writers and poets would do well to learn the basics of their genre before deciding which rules to keep or throw out.

Submit with precision. Some printed literary magazines may not be able to physically publish certain experimental works. Some online magazines may not have the web design capabilities needed to share experimental works on their websites. Research before submitting or send a preliminary query to ask about publishing limitations.

Make sure editors know the difference between experimentation and typos. If you’re going to experiment, be sure editors can tell you know what you’re doing—and aren’t just settling for sloppiness or laziness. HINT: That’s why many experimental works tend to have a somewhat self-aware sensibility. Find a proofreader who is sensitive to the needs of creative writers.

Be sure to write with substance, not just style. According to this editorial from The Review Review by Psychopomp co-editor Sequoia Nagamatsu (Jeremy Nagamatsu):

…a successful literary experiment (regardless of whether that experiment resembles realist fiction or your Settlers of Catan board) has to do more than look weird on the page (and I get the sense that a lot of newer writers think that experimental writing has to look weird on the page). There is content to consider, literary tradition, context, and the metaphoric and aesthetic resonance of artifice and construction.

Is Experimental Fiction Right For You?

Ironically, the only way to know if you have a latent talent for boundary-pushing fiction is to experiment! You have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Writer, Can You Help? What do you believe is the role of experimental fiction in today’s literary marketplace?

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