Just Because it Burns Doesn’t Mean You’re Gonna Die (Query Writing Sucks, But You Gotta Try.)

Yes, I quoted Pink. It’s an awesome song, and she’s got a point. Query writing sucks. It’s hard, but if you don’t try, then you can never succeed.

Also, you guys should know that my original novel never made it into Pitch Wars, or anywhere else. What I learned as someone trying to enter Pitch Wars gave me the tools to write a novel that landed me an agent. The community helped me with my query letter. I went through like 12+ drafts before this one. So, make sure to involve yourself with the community and find your tribe, or at the very least, soak up all the knowledge floating around out there.

A few tips: Try to keep it between 250-350 words. Make it long enough to make the plot of the story clear, and be able to define your stakes, but don’t make your query a letter a novel. Don’t name more than three characters, because it gets super confusing. No, no, no, no rhetorical questions. Clear stakes are a must. If you’re not sure about the stakes, try using this little formula to get thinking: My character must do this or that (usually a consequence) will happen.

It doesn’t work every time, but it might give you a starting place that you can evolve from.

Anyway, without further ado:

Dear Super-Amazing Agent

REDEMPTION is a romantic thriller, complete at 71,000 words.

There’s no manual for how to cope with being the daughter of a serial killer.

When twenty-six-year-old Molly Harper returns to North Carolina for her father’s execution after spending the past twenty years in the Witness Protection Program, she doesn’t anticipate crossing paths with Aidan Spencer, the son of her father’s final victim and the boy who convinced her to turn him in all those years ago. Desperate to know if he escaped the shadow of the horrific murders, she follows him to the general store where he works.

But Molly gets more integrated into his life than she plans when she thrusts Aidan’s little boy out of the way of an oncoming car and winds up in the hospital. As she recovers, Aidan shows her kindness and patience unlike any she’s ever known by accepting her for who he thinks she is. Love blossoms between them, but when the truth of Molly’s past is revealed, her fears are recognized as Aidan casts her out. Molly once again tries to run from her past, but winds up in the path of an insane kidnapper hell-bent on finishing the work Molly’s father started long ago.

As her past catches up with her present, Molly finds she’s not the only victim. The kidnapper also takes Aidan’s son intending to create the perfect family. But Molly knows if they don’t play their parts, if they upset the kidnapper, they’ll wind up just like her father’s original victims.

About me section that actually pretty much no longer applies in 2018, so I won’t bore you with it.

Per your guidelines, I have included whatever their guidelines specified.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Natasha Raulerson
Social Media

There ya go. I’m super thankful that my agent gave me a chance, because I still cringe when I look at my query, and a lot of times, I think that’s a natural reaction.  So, if you’re looking and cringing, well, most of us who already have agents, are right there with ya.

I hope this offers some insights for you guys and I can’t wait to read your stuff!

Natasha Raulerson

P.A.G.E.S. – Making The First 250 Great!

Many of the writing competitions out there require a query and the first 250 words of your manuscript. That means not only one, but both need to be as strong as you can make it. As a judge for multiple writing competitions, I’ve seen some common mistakes in the first 250 that tend to bog it down. Sure, some people take longer to settle into their voice when they first start a new project. I tend to start in the wrong spot all the time. Editing and getting feedback before entering the competitions help.

So how do you make your first 250 pop? I sat down for a few hours trying to figure this out. What makes a reader want to keep going? What makes them put down the book and move on? There may be a lot of reasons–some that have nothing to do with how well written it is, but there are certain things you can do to make sure that the first 250 is the best it can be for your story.

This morning, I came up with the acronym P.A.G.E.S. Hopefully, this little mini guide will be handy tip to help you polish that intro.


Making The First 250 Great


When you have that PERFECT first sentence, you’ll know it.

Phenomenal First Sentence – A gripping first sentence can make a reader stop whatever else they’re doing. It can make the rest of the world fade away, and that same reader will HAVE to know what comes next. What caused this first sentence? If the first sentence is that good they’re going to want to know what the next one is, what does the rest of the story have to say? At the core, that first sentence, whether dark, light, humorous, witty, etc–it makes the audience want to know what happens next.

If you want more information on how to craft a phenomenal first sentence check out this amazing post by Stephanie Scott over at Writing With The Mentors.


Your character doesn’t have to be walking away from a major traumatic event. Action can be mundane or extreme.

Actively Do Something – Hopefully,that something is something important. Somethingthat brings us to the inciting incident. Hopefully, that’s more than just ‘looking’. Looking is fine, but looking is also telling, and too much telling is tedious. Besides, if they’re just looking, chances are you’re just scene setting. Is your character riding a bike? Having a conversation? Were they just in a car accident? Did a letter arrive? There’s so many things to have your character doing, and they need to be doing something other than just observing.


Much like the episode of FUTURAMA where the universe is destroyed, you don’t want your characters just floating around without a setting.

Ground The Characters – While the characters are doing something, we need to know where they are. That doesn’t mean we need a 100 words worth of setting, but the reader needs something to ground them in the story. Are they on the shore of a beach? Sitting in their bedroom? At a doctors office? Without this pivotal information the characters–and the reader–are left floating in the ether. It’s nothing but a white back drop. Grounding the reader in the story with a bit of setting brings them in closer while the character is doing the aforementioned action.



When the reader can visualize the beginning of your novel it means you’ve got the start of something good. 

Engage The Reader – This comes when you have a happy balance of the above. Give a reader all the elements–a great first sentence, have the characters doing something, and put the setting in. I don’t want all dialogue in the first 250–there doesn’t even have to be any, pending on the story. I also don’t want all scene setting. I certainly don’t want nothing but observation or backstory. I want a fleshed out first 250 that makes me want to read more, and that means learning how to put all the necessary tidbits into a small space.



Figuring out the inciting incident is pivotal to figuring out where and when to start your novel.

Start In The Right Place – All of the above is great, but if you don’t start in the right place for your novel, you run the risk of losing the reader anyway. If you’re explaining too much backstory, or maybe you have a prologue that probably isn’t needed–chances are you started in the wrong spot. If you’re first two paragraphs are nothing but description of where the character is, chances are, you started in the wrong spot. You should be starting at the event that either is, or is quickly leading up to the inciting incident of your story. Once you figure out just what the inciting incident is, you can figure out where you need to begin.


For more help on figuring out where to start your story, check out this great post by Kes Trester at Writing With The Mentors.

There you have it. P.A.G.E.S. The basic elements you need to make your first 250 great. Infusing the voice is all on you. It can be tricky. Don’t be afraid to cut the original beginning to start later, or even rewrite it. Tons of authors state how they write the first sentence several dozen times, if not more. So much of writing is rewriting, but the thing is, you can’t edit or rewrite what you don’t have. First drafts suck, so don’t get too caught up on making the first 250 amazing right away. Make sure you finish the draft. That will also give you a clearer picture of the overall story, and if you have all the elements of P.A.G.E.S.

Play around with it. Expand. Remember, this is just the basics. You have to figure out how to make it work for your story.

If you’re interested a bit more on the query aspect, see QUERY ADVICE: DO’S, DON’TS, AND STRUCTURE.

Natasha Raulerson

Query Advice – Do’s, Don’ts, and Structure

It is becoming harder and harder to sift through advice in the writing community. Some is very subjective so it can vary, depending on what the topic is. Other advice however, is not just wrong, but it’s bad–and this can be detrimental to any author, especially those who are going the traditional route and putting a query out there.

Some advice is along the line of, the query shouldn’t be specific.

Yes it should. If your query is not specific then agents don’t know why your manuscript is different than every other story with the same tropes out there.

Another thing is that you have to have comp titles.

No you don’t. You can have them. Doesn’t mean you have to. Especially if you can’t think of anything modern to compare your work with. Sometimes it’s better to let it stand on its own. Other times, comp titles are amazingly useful. It just depends, but don’t think it’s a necessity.

Sometimes, even the query format is jumbled.

Standard query format is as follows:

Dear Agent,

Hook – Think something sharp and witty, like the tagline of a movie. Short and engaging. One to two lines max.

Body – This is the meat. 2-3 paragraphs giving the who, what, why, and of course the stakes. THIS SHOULD NOT BE VAGUE. This should include the protagonist/antagonist/love interest OR best friend. Three names maximum. Anything more than that and it gets confusing.

Even if your story is in first or second person, your query needs to be in third person, present tense.

This is the person, this is what’s happening, but when this happens, things get messed up.

The query DOES NOT give away the ending. It gives the STAKES. Try to avoid clichés such as, “Timmy must decide if finding out the secret is worth risking his life.” This is vague. Mysteries, secrets, etc. They don’t tell me anything. What is the secret? It’s okay to tell the agent. What happens if they don’t fix the problem? If the secret is something that will effect other people, how is it only Timmy’s life at risk? There’s more. You just have to dig a little deeper.

An easy formula to use to help identify the stakes:

Character must do THIS or else THAT (usually a consequence) will happen.

The stakes should finish the body of your query.

Novel Info – NOVEL TITLE is an age category genre complete at XX,XXX words. Comp titles if you want. It is out for simultaneous submission.

Reason For Querying Of Agent – If you so choose. Again, this is not a required field. Up to you. I would say only do this if you have a specific reason to. For instance you saw their post on ManuscriptWishList and thought it would be a good fit. Otherwise, they generally expect that you’ve done your research. Keep this brief.

About Me – A little bit about yourself and any writing accomplishments you have. It’s okay if you don’t have any too. It’s not going to keep you from getting rep. Keep this brief.

Thank you for your time and consideration. (You don’t need to mention the full manuscript is available upon request. You should only be querying if your manuscript is complete and polished–that’s what agents expect, so they already assume it’s available. Also don’t suck up and be like, “I promise you won’t regret requesting my manuscript!” Bad form. Keep it professional.)


Phone Number
Social Media

Just a note. You can put the novel info and reason for querying at the beginning or the end, but do not break it up. Me personally, when I’m judging competitions, I prefer the novel info at the end so I’m not bias. Some agents prefer it first. Again, this is a just depends, but really as far as I can tell, it’s not going to hinder your chances. It’s the meat of the query that matters.

The meat of your query should be a minimum of 250 words (unless it’s a PB) and at max 350 words. Some go over the 350 word max, and a little bit is fine, but try not to go much longer than that.

Edit: The word count is also becoming very subjective among agents. Some are even now saying 250 words or less. It comes down to researching your agents in regards to submission guidelines.

So, how do you know this is good advice? Well, you still need to do your homework. Read agent websites and blogs. Check out known query resource sites. Ask authors who have managed to snag an agent how they did it. (Honestly, we don’t bite, we’re happy to answer questions when we can.) Follow people who make it into competitions such as Query Kombat, Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, etc. They had to write queries to get in–good queries. Ones that follow standard format and have all the elements to let an agent or judge know why their story is unique.

Don’t just read one article and assume that’s the end all be all. Even for what I wrote, there’s wiggle room. For instance some people use one POV for the body, others use two. Two is a lot trickier, and I prefer one, but a lot of people have great queries from two POV’s. It all just depends.

One last note.


Here’s some resources to get you started.

Agent Query Connect – this website has several forums that allows you to post your query. You’ll get brutally honest feedback. It’s where I learned quite a bit about query writing when I started.

Query Shark – This is run by the amazing Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary. She has amazing advice. Read through Query Shark. All of it.

Query Kombat – A competition run by Michelle Hauck, Michael Anthony, and Laura Heffernan.  Think Mortal Kombat, but with queries. This competition is currently in progress. So read through the feedback that the judges leave as it may even apply to your query. #QueryKombat

Pitch Slam – Another fantastic writing competition run by Leatrice McKinney. Most recently she is also participating in WCNV giving more opportunities for diverse writers and #ownvoices. Both of these are great competitions to follow and gain insightful information on query writing. #PitchSlam #WCNV

Pitch Wars – Probably the most notorious writing competition to date, created and hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake. There is so much to be learned from this competition. Not only by following the community on Twitter, but also, recently, the mentors have created a blog where we offer advice to the writing community: Writing With The Mentors. #PitchWars



Natasha Raulerson

Query Critique Giveaway


A lot of awesome things are upcoming including Michelle Hauck’s Query Kombat, Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars, Tiffany Hofmann’s Ficfest and more!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m extremely limited in what I can do for contests this year, especially Pitch Wars because the tot in my tummy is expected to come mid-contest. That doesn’t mean that I can’t help out in other ways though. Through out the season I’ll be doing several giveaways to help you guys out. I wish I could help everyone, but I’ve got a lot on plate and have to manage my time as best I can.

Right now everyone should be polishing their queries, pitches, and first chapters to prepare to submit all the awesome. I’ve been there. It’s hard. They say it’s not worth doing if it’s easy, but sometimes you just want to print your query and tack it to a voodoo doll as if somehow that will cause it the pain it’s caused you.

The struggle is real.

That being said, my first giveaway will be TWO query critiques. How do you enter may you ask? Well you just have to sign up for my NEWSLETTER between now and Monday, April 25th, 8am EST. That’s it. Monday afternoon I will randomly draw TWO names for a query critique. I will email the winners and we’ll rock and roll!

But just FYI, signing up for the newsletter is a good way to find out about news and upcoming giveaways as well.

Good luck to all!

winners chosen and emailed! congrats to Kelly and paula!

Natasha Raulerson

Why I’m Bowing Out Of Pitch Wars This Year

It’s been a minute since I’ve made a personal post. After this semester I may go through and change out the layout so that the reveals and such are under one tab and my stuff is under another. Or would that be too confusing? Not sure. We’ll have to wait and see.

Natasha Raulerson Pitch Wars

When the brain isn’t braining.

Anyway, a lot of people already know that the main reason for my up-in-the-air, no-brain-today, trying to fix up my schedule stuff, is because of the fact that I am indeed preggo in my eggo. That still isn’t stopping me from doing the things that need to be done. I’m writing, I’m still going to school–until the end of the semester, at which point I’m taking off till after the kiddo is born–and making sure to keep active and do things. As much as I’d like to sit down and not brain all day, it’s just not my style.

So why then, may you ask, am I bowing out of Pitch Wars? il_570xN.867436260_e6v9

Well, the kiddo’s due date is October. That’s right. Not just smack dab in the middle of the competition, but getting down to the nitty gritty deadline of having those manuscripts, shined, polished, and ready to go for the agent round. Pending on what I pop, I wouldn’t be much help to any mentee. They’d be stressed, I’d be stressed, I’d be in labor, ya know, it’s just not a good mix.

I know what you’re thinking.

Why not co-mentor?

There’s plenty of awesome people out there to do it with, and while I would love to, my co-mentor would essentially be doing all the work. Let’s think about this, even if I was past due and the baby cooked a little longer than necessary, I’d still be in my 8th/9th month. Last trimester hell, full of hormones, mood swings, the dire need to not be pregnant anymore, exhaustion, and a multitude of doctors visits. Yeah. That wouldn’t be a good mix for an already stressful and emotional competition. My co-mentor would be doing 90% of the work and that’s just not fair.

So sadly, I have opted to step down, have the baby, and return next year full of win and awesome to help a fellow writer take their novel to the next level.

I really hate to bow out of the competition, but I’m also realistic, and super excited to be a mom. I want every mentee to have every awesome chance at landing an agent, and this year, I’m just not a mentor that would be able to devote their full energy to it. You guys deserve better than me half-assing it.

Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t be around to help you guys out. Especially since this is my last semester. I might do some critique giveaways, some newsletter (sign up by clicking the link) stuff to give tips and tricks, and maybe even Vlog some stuff that might help. I’m still here, right up until the kiddo says he/she is ready to come into the world. Then I’ll probably go dark for a few weeks, but I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll talk to Brenda about hosting some Pitch Wars games, and still being a really active part of it. I hope that I am, but I know that sometimes you just never know what’s going to happen.

So good luck to everyone gearing up to participate this year! Per usual, it’s going to be a wild ride!


Natasha Raulerson

Parasite: The Domino Project by K.T. Hanna



Parasite (The Domino Project #3)
by K.T. Hanna
Release Date: February 22nd 2016
Amaranthine Press

Summary from Goodreads:

With the Damascus closing in on the Exiled, Sai and Dom must put their grief and inner demons aside as they rush to free the people of the Protected Conglomerate from the influence of the psionic grid. 

 Chipped and placed under house arrest with a guard, Bastian’s only hope lies in reaching his core to disrupt Deign’s ruthless plan. 

Intent on putting a stop to the Damascus and the GNW’s reign, Dom discovers the true extent of the parasite within. Just when Sai thinks the Exiled have a chance, their greatest weapon turns on them.


Buy Links:

Amazon | Signed
Copies from Watermark Books


Pieces of Iota’s devastation spread like breadcrumbs around its site. Flames still cling to odd pieces of cargo and hull, and a faint psionic shield wavers unsteadily, flickering in and out of effectiveness as the sun sets. A portion of the lower hull teeters precariously under the shielding, as if a soft breeze could blow it over.

Dom brings Mele to a halt and steps out slowly. Rapidly switching his vision through infrared and thermal, he approaches the fading barrier, which appears to be shielding them from the fading rays of light, but could also be attuned for protection.

Behind a stack of rubble, much of which appears to be various appendages of Damascus soldiers, is a soft thermal glow. The shield wavers and blinks out as the final rays of the sun end in a dull red glimmer. Dom moves closer, pushing back the darkness that threatens to overtake him as panic works itself into knots in his brain. There’s no time for it now; he can’t let it control him. He rounds the final portion of rubble mixed with oddly melted adrium, devoid of its electricity, frozen into a rigid splashes of the metal, and steels himself

Previous books in the series (clink on image for Goodreads link):

celebrate Parasite’s release,
Chameleon and Hybrid are on sale for
for Book #1 – CHAMELEON

“Hanna takes familiar
sci-fi genre elements… and spins dystopian gold.” Kirkus Reviews

About the Author
KT Hanna has a love for words so extreme, a single word can spark entire worlds.

Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically out to kill you.

When she’s not writing, she freelance edits for Chimera Editing, and chases her daughter, husband, corgi, and cat. No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, and beef jerky.

Note: Still searching for her Tardis