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.

Sincerely,

Natasha Raulerson
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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!

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Natasha Raulerson

Well I’ve Been Scarce

Okay, so it’s been a minute. My bad.

I’ve missed being a part of the writing world, but as happens with so many of us, life pulls us away from the computer. That doesn’t mean it’s forever. I’m back–and I intend to get back into the groove.  It’s been a while since I’ve written a new novel, but that’s about to change.

 

Not that I know what I’m going to write.

In the last year, a lot has happened. My son turned 1, I was without power for 5-6 days after Hurricane Irma, I graduated with Bachelor’s in English, and I got a dream job. No, seriously, people want this job. I’m a website editor. I get to write newsletters and content, I get a lot of free food, there’s production days. Like, a lot goes on in this job, and ya know what? It’s the people that make it amazing. I’m pretty damn lucky to have landed it.  I also won 2nd place in the Writer’s Digest 86th Annual Short Story Competition (Literary/Mainstream). A lot of people have been asking for me to post it and I’m trying to find out the details, as for second place, WD doesn’t actually post the story anywhere. So it may be resubmitted, or I may add a page here with the nifty little badge they gave me.

It’s been a transition, but the amazing thing is, I come home and don’t have homework. I get to hang with my hubs and my son. Then my son goes to bed. Then I have time.

I can write again. I’m not fighting to stay awake, drinking three coffee’s a a day just to make it through, and the best part–no homework. What happens at work, stays at work. Home is home, and bed time is early for the Lil Monster Boy.

So, on top of doing my own writing, I’m happy to say, I’m reopening my freelance editorial business to help amazing author’s work on their own stuff too. Seriously, I love being an editor and there’s so many forms. I busted my ass in school, and I’m happy to say, it was worth it.

That being said, I miss you all, can’t wait to get to know you if I don’t, and hope to get back to doing what I love!

Later gators!

 

Natasha Raulerson

Happy New Year!

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Did you exhale in relief when the clock struck midnight and 2016 became a thing of the past? With a new year comes new hopes, aspirations, and possibilities. It’s a fresh start as we leave 2016 behind us and hope that tomorrow brings with it something amazing. Something, at the very least, better than yesterday.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the good. To find something positive in a trashpile of negative, but usually, there is something. Don’t let the world beat you down, especially if you’re a writer trying to achieve your dream. This industry is hard, but it’s not impossible. It may take a while to get published, and you may have to rewrite your novel a dozen times, but while you’re in the trenches, you’ll find people going through the same thing. People willing to help pull you out and uplift you. You’ll find amazing critique partners, nuggets of knowledge, and just genuinely good people you want to be in your life.

No matter what, strive to do your best. Don’t be coplacent when you make a mistake. Learn from it so you do better. Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how far away they may seem. Make goals, but remember, if you don’t achieve them all when you expect, that’s okay. Just keep trying to achieve them.

This world is full of too much negativity, judgement, and heartache. Don’t let that drag you down. Write your heart out. Learn to take constructive criticism. Always be open to learning new things about the craft.

Most of all, remember you’re not facing 2017 alone.

Happy 2017 everyone. May it be your best year yet!

Natasha Raulerson

Managing Time

I’d always admired parents who wrote. They managed to figure out how to manage the chaos of family with the discipline of writing. I say discipline because any one who writes jfPxJj.gifknows discipline is involved. If you don’t take the time to write every day, even if it’s for five minutes, then time often gets away from you.

Cronus is sneaky like that. Making time slip through our fingers and before we know it, a month has gone by and that W.I.P. has gone wayward in whatever writing processor is used. Lost in the files of the computer. Forgotten in the wasteland of unfinished stories.

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By the time we get back to it, so much has changed that the story may not seem like something we ever wrote at all. It might feel foreign, like the concept has warped, or you just plain don’t like it anymore.

I’m a new mom. I thought, “Ha! I’ll still write every day. I can do this!”

Well, that goal did not happen in the first month and a half of my sons life. It’s hard! I admire those parents even more now. They’ve been doing it a lot longer, with more than one kid to boot.

I was still writing, it just wasn’t every day. Most of the time it’s been on my phone, a sentence or two, maybe a paragraph, and it was while my son was breastfeeding or sleeping in my arms.

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It might just be snippets, ideas, thoughts, or stuff I know I’ll trash later, but the point was, I wrote.

Now, I don’t have time managed to a ‘T’. I’m also editing, and paying clients come first.

My own words, however, have somewhat taken a back seat. My son is almost two months old now, and things are falling into a rhythm. Now, when he sleeps, I can write. I know people say to sleep when he does, but he’s getting pretty good about sleeping long stretches through the night. Those day naps give me time to do things around the house, work, and write in between.

Even if it’s five words, even if it’s one. I’m back to writing every day. Whether by hand, on my phone, or if I manage to sit at my computer to do something other than edits. Writing is my passion. It’s my dream, and if nothing else, I’m making sure to produce words every day to provide an example for my son.

I want him to follow his dreams no matter how hard it might be.

Leading by example. Managing time. It’s not easy, and I tip my hat to all those parents who have been doing it far longer and better than I.raw (1).gif

Natasha Raulerson

FROSH 2: SECOND CHANCES

_FROSH2FINALHey guys! Welcome to the Blog Tour for FROSH 2: SECOND CHANGES by Monica B. Wagner. After reading the blurb, don’t forget to check out Monica’s amazing playlist!

Blurb:

In FROSH: First Blush, Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie spent their welcome week falling head over heels for each other–before totally falling apart. Now, in FROSH: Second Chances, they’ll have to pick up the pieces.

After ruining Grant’s football career (and her own reputation), Ellie has been trying to lie low–which means not making more enemies. But some students still want her to pay for what she did, and now, Ellie’s determined to fight back–and fight for Grant.

Grant is adjusting to his new reality: no more football means no more free passes in class, and definitely no more distractions; especially from Ellie, whom he misses even after she destroyed his world. Can he find a way to move on without her–and without football?

Devon finally has it all: her brother’s sober and her boyfriend is an adorkable genius. But when her parents threaten to tear her and Charlie apart because he doesn’t ‘fit’ into their high society, she will go to dangerous lengths to prove that nothing–nothing–can defeat Devon Connors.

Charlie’s never questioned who he is: pre-med science geek, and now, Devon Connors’ boyfriend. But when he discovers a secret about his past, Charlie isn’t sure of anything–especially whether he can trust Devon with the truth.

Perfect for fans of Cora Carmack and Colleen Hoover, Monica B. Wagner’s sexy New Adult series follows these four characters all the way to winter break–when the only thing they’ll want more than first love is a second chance.

BUY LINKS

 

Hi! Thanks for inviting me to this blog today. : )

I’m here to share a playlist for each of the main POV characters on Frosh: Second Chances.

Ellie: Set Fire to The Rain and Rolling in the Deep – Adele. Can’t Remember to Forget You – Shakira ft. Rihanna.

Grant: The Scientist (Nobody Said it Was Easy) – Coldplay. Misery – Maroon 5.

Charlie: Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley. I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons.

Devon: Fancy – Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX. Work Bitch – Britney Spears

Thanks so much for reading!

Mónica

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Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companions as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog. Keep up with Monica and follow her on Twitter @Monica_BW or visit her website: http://monibw.blogspot.com.

Natasha Raulerson

Back To The Future – On Writer’s Block & Editing

Sometimes finding that next word or that next sentence isn’t so easy. This can happen 10k or 50k words into that work-in-progress. If you’re lucky, it never happens, but for the majority, there is always that moment that catches us. That makes it hard for fingers to brush over the keyboard in fluid movements. Instead, it’s jagged tap-a-taps before hitting the backspace key–and somewhere in between is usually the overwhelming urge to throw said keyboard out the window. Not that the sudden block is the keyboards fault, but let’s face it, keyboards probably get more abuse from writers than anyone else. Mine has so much wear and tear that the letters have worn off the keys, and honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t cracked the damn thing. The keyboard is the medium from which we transport our thoughts to the screen–and sometimes, we’re very, very mean to it when we can’t make the correlation.

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So, what can we do to not only keep the words flowing, but to maybe not beat up the poor, innocent, and too-often abused keyboard?

Well there are some tactics. Maybe pushing forward works for you. Writing crap upon crap until finally it gives way to the diamonds in the rough that make the story flow again. Most times those original craptastic words are deleted and rewritten later, but if that’s the method that works, then that’s the method that works.

I tend to be the person who stares and stares and stares and wonders why my fingers aren’t moving. Then I note twenty-minutes have passed and the most I’ve achieved is three words and being mesmerized by the cursor blinking on the page.

Realizing that this method is not helping me get any work done, I’ve opted to try something new.

GOING BACK TO THE FUTURE!

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So what does that mean in writer terms exactly? Well, I was listening to K.M. Weiland’s podcast and she mentioned that about every third of her manuscript she goes back and edits. She also mentioned that some authors get caught in a sort of loophole where they forever edit what they already have and never continue on. I used to be that writer, so going back to edit while writing makes me reluctant. I don’t want to fall in that loophole again.

However, when I can’t push forward, it makes me wonder if something has gone wrong in what I already wrote, or rather, in the past of my manuscript. How have I wound up struggling so hard to write that next line? Well, the only way to figure that out is to go to the past–or what I’ve already written in the world I’m working on. To read over what I already have and see if I need to change something, or, what’s more likely, I may have forgotten a detail that’s meant to push the plot forward. Weaving together a plot is pretty damn hard. So by going back and rereading what’s already there, details that are forgotten in the whirlwind of the rough draft pop back out, and things are remembered, thus I can change the future of my manuscript. Making notes in the sidebar (I have Scrivener) can definitely help the process of not over editing–something that may keep you stuck in the past.

Instead of adding the actual detail that may be needed to enhance a scene, jot a note down so when you’re going through your first round of revisions, you remember what you need to do. Sure, fix a misspelled word, or maybe add a bit of dialogue if it comes to you, but don’t DO all the actual editing–at least if you’re like me and will get caught in that forever-editing-loop instead of finishing the manuscript.

By reading through the past, new ideas pop to mind. New avenues to take, paths to carves, 10_21_15_alison_greatscottcharacters to enhance or create. You may get through one chapter or four before that “GREAT SCOTT!” moment hits and you’re jumping back to the future of your manuscript to work on that scene with renewed vigor–and a safely intact keyboard.

I’ve learned this method keeps my mind in the manuscript, makes the gears spin in regards to the what has happened as well as what needs to happen, and helps me come up with ideas of where to take it based on where I’ve already been–and just like Marty and Doc, sometimes I wind up finding a nugget that with a little tweaking, lets me change the future into something much better than I originally imagined.

At the very least, I’ve got some notes jotted for when I actually start the full editing process.

Give it a shot. If nothing else, your keyboard will thank you.

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.

P.A.G.E.S.

Making The First 250 Great

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.